Saturday, November 13, 2010

9 Bad Excuses to Not Write Women: Excuse #1

Women in fantasy and science fiction is a topic close to my heart, so I wanted to talk about it. While some genres/sub genres are rife with female characters, others are pretty lacking. Often, I find the scarcity of women in some books surprising, or I want to hear more about female characters and they don't get mentioned again, let alone get a view point. And I've heard writers make excuses for why they don't write more women, or don't give women point of view roles in their books.

Each of the following excuses are things that I have heard (often more than a few times) and so I thought I would go through them, give my thoughts, and ask you for yours. However, this post did get pretty long, so I'm going to cut it into parts (1 excuse per post) so that y'all don't have to read an essay, but I'll include links to later posts, for those who want to read the whole list. I'll be posting these every Sunday, until I run out of excuses. ;)

1) Too many authors put in women just to have them and because of this they're not well-rounded characters.

Isn't that the fault of the author for failing to round out the character? Just because the author needs to learn to write well-rounded, realistic female characters doesn't mean the female characters aren't needed. Sometimes, there are logical reasons for women not to appear in the story (the story takes place entirely in a monastery or men's prison, for example), but most of the time the lack of women is unrealistic and limiting to the story, cutting out a whole viewpoint that could be used to deepen the setting and a reader's view of the other characters. This is only more relevant if the roles of women and men are different in the society.

The solution here is easy: if you write a female character, write her as a character. Don't keep thinking “Girls, girls, what are girls like?” Instead, think “Where did she come from? Where is she going? And what will she risk in order to get there?” If you don't like female characters that are uncomplicated and shallowly characterized, great! Don't write them that way.

What do you think? Are women under-represented in the genres you read? What do you think the reasons for that are?

Next Excuse

8 comments:

StuartC said...

You should read my character Linda in my WIP. I think you would like her

Merc said...

This is a promising series! :)

(Am too tired to really reply to the questions right now, but will be following this with interest.)

Botanist said...

Interesting thought, Marion. I never thought of it in terms of writers actively finding ways to exclude women characters, or only having them because they feel they ought to.

You're right, though. Science fiction (can't speak so much to fantasy) is utterly male-dominated.

As a young boy reading sci-fi I never really noticed it.

As an adult writing sci-fi, though, I find my writing reflects the kind of world I see around me, and I have no shortage of women in lead roles. In my current WIP, my protag is female, as are many of her strongest opponents.

Looking forward to the rest of the series.

Marion Sipe said...

@Stuart - *G* Is it up over at CC? When I have time to read again, maybe I'll check it out.

@Merc - Thank you! I'm pretty happy with it. I just wish it hadn't turned out so long! :D

@Botanist - I don't think it's conscious, most of the time. Some writers just don't think to include a female perspective, or they think there's some big secret to writing women. Then, if it's pointed out that they don't have female POVs or main characters, people get defensive and make up excuses.

Thank you! I look forward to hearing your thoughts on them. While a few of these maybe more fantasy, most of them apply equally to science fiction.

Anne Beeche said...

Gah, I hate when people ask "Girls, girls, what are girls like?" (and when girls ask the same thing of guys), as if the sexes are really that different from each other. Ugh!

You know there's something wrong with the way we raise our children if the majority of us can't "understand" half of our own species.

Dude, men and women are the same species, therefore they think the same way. A man is about as different from a woman as he is from another man, and vice versa.

I could go into a whole rant about this right now, but I won't.

Marion Sipe said...

@Anne Beeche - I know, right? I think society pounds it into our heads. Girls like this, boys like that. Girls do this, boys do that. Because were are led in different directions by society, there *must* be a physical reason. It's silly.

We all have traits that people consider "masculine" or "feminine" and it is society that makes that determination.

Anonymous said...

Well, actually, no. The more the science that allows us to peer into the brain the more we are learning that our two brains function very differently. Men and women do think differently, process information differently, and even react with different parts of the brain. We are two halves of the same species, but the halves are not identical.

Marion Sipe said...

Hmm. I'm not sure what the "no" here refers to. Are you saying that one shouldn't write a woman as a character?

Regardless of your opinion on the differences between men and women, doesn't it make sense to approach every character as a character? Gender is just one piece of the puzzle, after all, and if that's the aspect that's giving one trouble, doesn't it make sense to approach from another angle?