Wednesday, June 18, 2014

No matter how you write your women characters, YOU CANNOT WIN.

There have been a lot of articles lately about dissatisfaction with women characters. I'm not going to link to any of them because frankly, I don't have time to chase down all the many, many links. I've had some interesting conversations on Facebook, and a lot of thoughts on the subject. So I decided to sum up my thoughts on writing women characters.

No matter how you write your women characters, YOU CANNOT WIN.

Write a woman with domestic, caregiving tendencies = complaints.

Write a woman who can fight and shoot = complaints.

Write a woman with no discernible reasons for her behavior = complaints.

Write a woman with a complicated backstory that informs her behavior = complaints.
(if it involves a man, especially being hurt by a man in any way.)

Write a "strong" woman = HUGE COMPLAINTS.

Write a woman who in any way embodies traditionally feminine traits = complaints.

Write a woman who in any way embodies traditionally masculine traits = complaints.

Write a woman with conventional good looks = complaints.

Write a woman who deviates from conventional ideas of beauty in the slightest = complaints.

Write a woman who wants a romantic partner = complaints.

Write a woman with no desire for a romantic partner = complaints.

Write a woman who is uncomfortable with her sexuality = complaints.

Write  a woman who is comfortable with her sexuality = OMG, the complaints!

Write a white woman = complaints.

Write a woman who is a person of color = complaints.

Write a straight woman = complaints.

Write a lesbian, bi, trans, or anywhere else on the sexual spectrum, woman = complaints.

Write a woman with plenty of female friends who she talks to on a regular basis = complaints.

Write a woman who is more comfortable with male friends = complaints.

Write a woman who is still in the process of discovering who she is and where her power lies = complaints.

Write a woman who already knows who she is and where her power lies, and isn't afraid to use it = complaints.

Write a complex, dynamic, fully realized woman character in a genre where those characters typically don't appear  = complaints and confusion.

Write a complex, dynamic, fully realized woman character in a romance = *crickets*
(from the vast majority of people currently complaining about women characters, who either don't know romance exists or sneer at it.)

What have I missed? Because I'm sure I've missed some of the things you can do with your women characters that will be picked apart and heavily criticized by somebody. Woman can't win in real life, and we can't win in fiction, either.

So what do we do? The only things I know to do are this: stop listening to the sexist old dinosaurs of genre fiction who can't stand girl cooties all up in their fantasy, horror, sci-fi, whatever. And also - stop feeling like we have to create characters by checklist. Write women as people. Write characters that fit the story you're trying to tell. Sometimes you'll get complaints from the dinosaurs. Sometimes you'll get complaints from feminists. Sometimes you'll really hit the jackpot and make everybody mad at you. Write your women characters as people, just like you would your men characters. Give the story what it needs. Whatever you do, you can't win, so you might as well be true to the story.

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