Let's talk about Gender Stereotypes...


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Thread: Let's talk about Gender Stereotypes...

  1. #1

    Let's talk about Gender Stereotypes...

    One thing that bugs the HELL out of me is Gender Stereotypes.

    I see this in a lot of stories. There is this need to present female characters as "feminine" and male characters as "masculine". What truly defines being feminine and being masculine? Why can't a female character exhibit traditionally masculine traits? Like being physically strong, aggressive and competitive? Why can't a male character exhibit traditionally feminine traits like nurturing, gentle, etc. I think a lot of this is bullshit.

    See, this is why I get a bit confused when you write a female characters vs. a male character. We all come from different walks of life. I know a handful of my female friends who are very physically strong, headstrong, tomboyish, etc. They don't really like wearing dresses and they hate pink. Does that not make them a female? Heck no.

    I think when people write characters and don't think of Gender Stereotypes, the writing is a lot better. Attack On Titan is an anime/manga that does a tremendous job at doing this. Men and women are serving in the military and both of their courage and sacrifice is equal. It's nice to see.

    Thoughts on Gender Stereotypes? Do you think writing should break away from them or keep them in play?

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by MorganaPendragon25 View Post
    Thoughts on Gender Stereotypes? Do you think writing should break away from them or keep them in play?
    I have not noticed Gender Stereotypes in modern books, films or TV programmes. .. yes, if the writer wants to portray a weak or strong character as part of the story, but that's all. *shrugs*

    Maybe we need a rewrite of Jane Austen's book 'Little Women' or Jayne Ayres book 'Wuthering Heights', but in truth I am not a fan of rewrites, history or otherwise just to fit the 'modern view'.
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  3. #3
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  4. #4
    Have you read The Mists of Avalon by Marion Bradley? It's a retelling of the Arthurian story strictly from the perspective of the female characters, particularly Morgana. None of the characters are 'powerful' in the martial sense of Arthur or Lancelot, instead they wield power through politics and magic, though the latter is subtle. We see women in traditional feminine roles who are also powerful.

    It's good to see some female characters take on traditionally masculine traits, but i think it's ironic that this is often done in the name of feminism - because the implication is that women are only powerful in as far as they are masculine and ignores the power of traditional feminine traits.

    It would be nice to see some plurality in female roles - not women being objects in male orientated narratives, nor women just become men to satisfy a vocal political niche (or to capitalise on a wealthy demographic if you are cynical).

  5. #5
    Males and females have differences but a good 80% of their characteristics are the same. Do you know what a clique is? Every film that feels the need to depict their female characters as 'bad asses' or any film that feels the need to make males the 'baddies'.

    Selecting traits from the small but clear character traits that differentiate males from females are not cliques, they're short cuts for accepting those traits immediately rather than having to go through a whole lot of explaining. You could argue that's lazy, and in a lot of cases I'd agree, but you can't call it stereotyping.

    This is not to say that you shouldn't attempt to break those stereotypes. I do it ALL the time. But you try writing a female that does't actually feel like a victim after being raped or doesn't actually give a shit about it, and you will be pressured into turning her into a stereotype. If you write the scene as if you were that character and layer in that nonchalance, it's even worse. The problem is, if you then succumb to pressure and change her into a 'victim' sometimes the whole premise of the story falls apart.

    So, yeah, challenge those stereotypes but know them first.
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  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by MorganaPendragon25 View Post

    Thoughts on Gender Stereotypes? Do you think writing should break away from them or keep them in play?
    I don't often think about this. My female characters have been pretty well-received by female readers so I guess I am doing something right. And I don't often see this in books I read either, so I dunno. It just seems like a concern I never really had.


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  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by bdcharles View Post
    I don't often think about this. My female characters have been pretty well-received by female readers so I guess I am doing something right. And I don't often see this in books I read either, so I dunno. It just seems like a concern I never really had.
    I have to say, it's not something I've seen much in the books I've read, either. On television and in movies, absolutely. That's tougher though because it's mostly the dialogue that gives insight to the character, and that's usually pretty paint-by-numbers (probably why I don't watch much anymore).

    I can't even imagine seriously writing a stereotypical character. There's so much to draw from in the spectrum of human experience and imagination, it's like having a palette of every conceivable color available, but choosing to paint only in gray.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by druid12000 View Post
    I have to say, it's not something I've seen much in the books I've read, either. On television and in movies, absolutely. That's tougher though because it's mostly the dialogue that gives insight to the character, and that's usually pretty paint-by-numbers (probably why I don't watch much anymore).

    I can't even imagine seriously writing a stereotypical character. There's so much to draw from in the spectrum of human experience and imagination, it's like having a palette of every conceivable color available, but choosing to paint only in gray.
    I think the problem occurs in the boardrooms of hollywood and TV studios. They have quotas that need to be filled, which inevitably lead to stereotypes, although for some odd reason, they think they're bucking the trend. No, they're feeding a trend that's lead to new stereotypes.

    A stereotype isn't a character with specific traits, it's a character with ONLY those traits. There are choices you have to make based on 'norms', otherwise you lose 80% of your audience which are your average consumer.

    Using my own story as an example, a pregnancy was necessary, so it HAD to be a woman. In order for our antagonist (although it's left to interpretation which is which), the woman (Josephine) had to care nothing for herself, nothing for anyone else and nothing for the child. That's the whole reason Joe exists in the first place. Everything lead from my first and inevitable needs for the character. I didn't decide on who Josephine was, the story and needs for the story dictated them.

    And that's how you should write. If you find yourself thinking: should I make them male or female and arbitrarily pick one, you're doing it wrong. You have your story, you know the needs of your story, and that informs you of the character/s you'll need. A pantser will likely have a different approach, but even then, the story will evolve around the limits of the character they've created.

    If the pantser suddenly finds themselves in a situation where their female character is faced off against 2 male assailants, and it's not sci-fi (no enhancements) and not a fantasy (no spells/magic) and not a horror (no otherworldly abilities), then the outcome is likely to go badly for the woman. And that's fine for pantsers, and much of the fun. On the other hand, if they've made their character a male, there's a much higher chance the character could better those two male assailants. Not necessarily of course, but there's definitely a higher chance. In this case, having picked a male character, the pantser has more at their disposal. Even if the character loses, nobody is going to question it. If he wins, it's not going to be out of the question, so that won't pull people up either.

    You have to be honest with yourself and honest with your readers. If you don't, they'll pick up on it and reject the premise. Hence high critical scores for dross from hollywood by 'critics' and low scores for that same dross from consumers. People are not stupid, as much as Hollywood and other companies like to pretend they are.
    Last edited by TheMightyAz; February 26th, 2021 at 03:58 PM.
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  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by MorganaPendragon25 View Post
    One thing that bugs the HELL out of me is Gender Stereotypes.

    I see this in a lot of stories. There is this need to present female characters as "feminine" and male characters as "masculine". What truly defines being feminine and being masculine? Why can't a female character exhibit traditionally masculine traits? Like being physically strong, aggressive and competitive? Why can't a male character exhibit traditionally feminine traits like nurturing, gentle, etc. I think a lot of this is bullshit.

    See, this is why I get a bit confused when you write a female characters vs. a male character. We all come from different walks of life. I know a handful of my female friends who are very physically strong, headstrong, tomboyish, etc. They don't really like wearing dresses and they hate pink. Does that not make them a female? Heck no.

    I think when people write characters and don't think of Gender Stereotypes, the writing is a lot better. Attack On Titan is an anime/manga that does a tremendous job at doing this. Men and women are serving in the military and both of their courage and sacrifice is equal. It's nice to see.

    Thoughts on Gender Stereotypes? Do you think writing should break away from them or keep them in play?
    Certainly characters can work in any role, just like real people do. However, there are physical differences between the sexes, traditional roles which have existed (ostensibly) since the dawn of mankind, and in many cases cultural expectations.

    The strongest women will never have the muscle mass of the strongest man. Without a LOT of artificial help from science, a man will never bear a child. There is nothing wrong with adopting a traditional role for either sex just as certainly as there is nothing wrong with breaking it.

    There are PLENTY of women in this world who enjoy traditional roles and embrace feminine motifs. Anyone who walks around a place with people, and has their eyes open, will see them all around. That also applies to traditional roles in the home. Now, my wife and I both had successful careers. Mine is still going, she retired a few years ago. Yet, she still did/does most of the cooking, because that was a fair tradeoff for me doing ALL of the yardwork. She doesn't want to cut the grass or rake the leaves or vacuum the pool, and will never have to. (She did enjoy dead-heading the roses, before we moved and left our rose garden behind).

    You want to know who writes the most feminine characters I EVER read? Women authors.

    So no, it's not bullshit, it's real life. I think we're allowed to let real life seep into our fiction from time to time.

    I don't get the point of your outrage, because I see aggressive, competent, sturdy female characters ALL THE TIME. Maybe you need some tips on where to find them.
    Last edited by vranger; February 26th, 2021 at 04:32 PM.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by MorganaPendragon25 View Post
    I see this in a lot of stories. There is this need to present female characters as "feminine" and male characters as "masculine". What truly defines being feminine and being masculine? Why can't a female character exhibit traditionally masculine traits? Like being physically strong, aggressive and competitive? Why can't a male character exhibit traditionally feminine traits like nurturing, gentle, etc. I think a lot of this is bullshit.

    See, this is why I get a bit confused when you write a female characters vs. a male character. We all come from different walks of life. I know a handful of my female friends who are very physically strong, headstrong, tomboyish, etc. They don't really like wearing dresses and they hate pink. Does that not make them a female? Heck no.
    I see it quite differently, but it really depends on what you are reading and from which era. Up until a few decades ago sure, traditional stereotypes in gender were everywhere. These days? Shit, I can't move at the bookstore without finding the latest example of postmodern take on women, men, or both.

    The spunky, take-no-crap tomboy is pretty well established at this point, I would say. Hell, I see it all the time and it's not even new. It's EVERY goddamn Disney movie, most Hollywood blockbusters. The whole 'not like most girls' thing.

    I often find it a more irritating iteration of gender stereotyping, because it enforces the idea that strength comes with 'male' behavior and/or appearance. To a lesser extent, the 'sensitive man' also exists and is a little newer...but is a little less appealing, for lots of reasons I suppose..

    Either way, I think this is one area where the pendulum has actually swung the other way. I can't tell you how many times I hear authors justify women being sexually promiscuous on the basis of 'yes she's acting like a man and you gotta deal with it because that's feminism!'.

    No, it isn't feminism. It's a form of misogyny, if anything, because it's assuming women must ape male brutality, selfishness and heartlessness in order to be 'strong'.

    That doesn't mean women CAN'T be sexually promiscuous, mind, only that the entire subject is irrelevant, because strength of character does not manifest well through how many people you fuck and in what position.

    Basically, I think gender is poorly studied in most literature. When I think of strong female (or male) characters, they almost never come from books or movies that are purposefully seeking to provide them. They tend to come from naturally well-formed characters that are 'whole people' with their own motives and agendas.
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