Oh boy, I’ve let out a can of worms here. Come on! Let me have it! I ain’t afraid of you! RARGH!
So, now we’ve got all that out of the system, let me explain myself. First off, if you don’t already know this, I am a dude. A fat, useless, single (wink) dude. And while this may sound entirely cliché, I am not a sexist.
For me, I’m concerned about the person. Can you be brave? Can you be a coward? Can you commit suicide? Can you fight for your life?
I’ve been weighing on writing this topic for a while now, not just because of how it might be portrayed, but because it might have been better off as one of my Screaming at a Wall blog series entry instead. Also, there’s the chance of unbelievable backlash.
Ultimately, I decided this was not a topic I could tackle as an individual, and that I am vain enough to think that my thoughts on the subject would matter in the larger conversation. So I thought I would share my experience dealing with the concept of feminism and sexism in the process my writing.
I have no qualms about the base concept of the ideology. Equal treatment and opportunity for both men and women? Sign me up. I’m anti-sexist. Sexism is a no-no. What most people don’t understand is that feminism doesn’t mean empowering women. It just means equality without bias on gender.
Feminism is the opposite of sexism.
But I personally don’t like the word ‘feminism’, because it focused too much on the ‘feminine’. If the world becomes one where males were the mistreated gender, there would be no ‘manism’, because the definition of gender equality has already been taken by feminism.
I’d prefer a word like ‘fairism’ or ‘genderism’. You know, something that’s generically both male and female?
But I’m digressing.
This post is about writing, after all, so let’s get to it. Feminism and sexism in writing, or more broadly, in storytelling.
A few months ago, I had a conversation with a self-described feminist. I told them about the stories I was writing, and introduced her to 139: In Evening‘s plot. I let them read samples of my story, and almost a few chapters latter, I was called a sexist for my portrayal of the female characters in the story.
I was lambasted that the character of Stella was introduced in a seductive scene, that Sister was the embodiment of lust (oops, spoilers), and that Detective Julianne Smith needed ‘a man to save her’. I fired back. This is the issue with the extreme left of the feminist movement.
The need for a gender to be perfect has completely overwritten the equality part of the movement.
Clay can be a drug addict. Timothy can be apathetic. Oliver can be a useless brute, and Josh is a drunk man with a DUI manslaughter. They can be all those objectively terrible things, and it’s not sexist.
But the smartest character in the story being female and slightly sensual? Sexist. A character chosen as the spiritual embodiment of lust because of her abused past? Sexist. A head detective charismatic enough to rally an entire city but fears death? Sexist.
We’re not allowed to write characters anymore. Alternet published an article about the 10 Most Sexist Female Characters in television, and it is a painful read. The author did all but outright say that females must be perfect to not be sexist.
You can’t have a sensual female. That’s sexist. Prostitutes? Sexist. Smart? Sexists. Weak? Sexists. Mentally ill? Sexists. Poor? Sexists. Not black? Sexists. White? Sexists. Black? Also sexists. Romantic? Super sexists.
By these standards, the only female character that can be written is a multi-racial female who was born at 30 years old as a successful entrepreneur of a big business who knows Judo and can reproduce asexually, emphatically feel everyone’s pain, and not give a damn about any of it.
That is the only female character you can write with those restrictions.
I’m not saying feminism is wrong. It is far from it. But the restriction set by the extreme of the movement has damaged the equality that people have been fighting for. The need for a gender to be perfect has completely overwritten the equality part of the movement.
What most people don’t understand is that feminism doesn’t mean empowering women. It just means equality without bias on gender.
As a writer, gender is one of the last things I consider when writing. For me, I’m concerned about the person. Can you be brave? Can you be a coward? Can you commit suicide? Can you fight for your life? Can you fall in love? Can you be alone? Be sexual? Be strong? Be independent? Be weak? Good? Evil? Right? Wrong? Uncertain?
When a character can be any of those things, can change into any of those person, that’s when I know they are good. They are not female or male then. They are alive.
If someone thinks that a person can only be portrayed as either perfect or flawed, and never in-between, that person might have to ask if they are the ones setting the line of gender inequality.