I’ve been catching up on books lately. Yada yada, an artist must be an observer but also have you read books? Books are great. They are sustenance to my little heart.
But I wanna talk again about writing women, and specifically why we can’t seem to get away from sexism.
I get it for some sub-genres–urban fantasy, for example. If you want to set it in a world that is currently real, then, make it real. It’s not like everything’s fine and then assault jumps out of the blue. That isn’t how it works like 95% of the time. There are SO MANY THINGS outside of that one thing that make this society the way it is, and those things are noticed and corrected for all the time.
But if you’re making a world from scratch, why on whatever-planet-this-book-is-on is gender always a thing? You could have anything be a thing, and it always comes down to innies and outies. What’s up with that? Fantasy lets us experiment. I recommend trying it. Try imagining what it would be like if men could have friends that weren’t bros or lovers, and if women never had to worry about feelings for their own survival. I bet it’d be really interesting.
So, in the event that you’re interested in making women sound like humans, and you are perhaps not a woman, here is some free insight into our so-called mysteries.
Ye gads, what is it with these books of lady people with no friends, only male friends, or friends who just wanna talk about feelings and sexual positions all day! Women have friends! Often more than one! Usually at least a few are also women, who are interested in things the woman friend likes. Things like eating food, and social awkwardness, and new movies. She also has straight men friends who are either friends with her for shared interests, or if they are there for one thing, they have the decency not to say it because they know that isn’t what friends do. Otherwise, they aren’t her friend. Men who stick around women they find attractive and remind them all the time of this aren’t called friends. They are now entourage or stalkers. Totally different dynamic, stop calling them friends, that’s gross.
Unless you’re really into it, discussion of fashion almost universally revolves around the following:
1. Economy (Thanks! Macy’s is having a sale)
2. Boob wrangling (HOW DOES THIS DRESS WORK! WHERE DO PARTS GO)
3.Period mitigation (These pants fit, even when I’m PMSing like a champ)
4. How nothing fits or has pockets (WHY CAN’T WE HAVE POCKETS OR STANDARD SIZING)
End of discussion.
I’m not sure how this got started? But we don’t actually talk like women do in Rom Coms by and large. I think if we could just not, any more, that’d be great. The last conversation I had with a woman about her guy? Was about how he was debating with his best friend which NSYNC album was best. That tells me a lot more about her happiness with him than her gushing about the things he does to prove he loves her.
No one beats their fists or tears at their hair or wrings their hands. I just need…y’all to stop. If your character is in a relationship that makes her act like a caricature of a failed Shakespearean actor? Your character may have some other things going on in her life you may want to tend to. If you actually think this is how life works, I need you to have a Rom Com conversation with a lady friend stat. Drinking will have to be involved. You will have a lot to learn. Stay away from Goldschlager, tonight’s gonna be rough.
I work in a male dominated field. Wanna know who the chatty Cathies are? His name is Chris, and he’s never at his desk. He has been promoted four times in the past five years. No, we don’t dress like Mad Men. We actively avoid wovens because the fashion industry knows men need their buttoned shirts to be comfy, but is convinced women are just looking for straight jackets. Saggy butt pants and knee length skirts are bought on purpose so we can avoid any hint of asking for anything that doesn’t come from our mouth lips, and so conversations address the questions from our mouth lips, and heed the answers those mouth lips give. This is not a given if you wear a nice dress. Apparently things that fit well are holding up horrendous signs without our knowledge, and cannot be trusted to give sound business advice.
Once you’ve figured out a way to dress that is a right balance of “promotable professional” and “leave me alone,” you spend your day discussing spreadsheets, work jargon, and occasional jokes about things you see on the news. It’s pretty boring, except when you accidentally wear a shirt you find out too late is see through, and then it’s exciting in a bad way.
Our secret is that we are always angry. The Hulk in Avengers is actually a metaphor for working with modern misogyny. I think this is the hardest thing to explain. All the emotions men feel? Women feel, too. Being extremely capable, however, we can both exercise face muscles and punch things at the same time, so don’t worry about telling us to smile. We will be soon.
Your character should also get mad. Eventually she will be Done, and Done looks like a lot of things. Note if your character is also not straight or white, or is trans, and is in a Western style culture, the rage level is way closer to Done than if she is just a white girl. She is never 100% Not Done, because always somewhere in books, there’s someone who says dumb stuff like “you’re different from the others” or “quit acting like a woman!” or “you’re pretty when you’re not scowling” and there are so few ways for these thoughts to be communicated in a way that isn’t enraging that it’s better just to assume they always are. When you become fluent in feminine rage, then you can experiment with the vocab a little. Pro tip, if you start a sentence with “not all…” your woman character is about to be immediately and irrevocably Done.
And there you have it. I hope this helps build more complex humanoids who want to navigate the world as women in our stories.