“Describe Yourself Like a Male Author Would” Thread Is a Thing of Snarky Genius
new twitter challenge: describe yourself like a male author would
— Whit Reynolds (@whitneyarner) April 1, 2018
The way that some male writers have a tendency to write female characters—with emphasis on their looks and their breasts—has long been a popular subject of Internet conversation and derision. Today a Twitter thread invited people to imagine themselves as a male writer would.
The “challenge,” promoted by podcaster Whit Reynolds and writer Kate Leth, was kicked off by another Tweet:
A male author is insisting that he is living proof that it’s possible for a male author to write an authentic female protagonist.
Here’s a quote from his first page. pic.twitter.com/f6d5bN2EHq
— Gwen C. Katz (@gwenckatz) March 30, 2018
That it’s so easy for Twitter users to chime in with their guy-writer descriptions demonstrates how widespread this sort of writing is. The focus of male writers when turning their gaze on women is something that most of have read so many times that we could produce these in our sleep.
Worse, several people in the thread say that as a woman over 50, or someone outside of patriarchal beauty standards, they don’t have a description at all—because they’re considered invisible by the type of author who likes to write about the way a t-shirt clings to the curve of a small but well-shaped breast.
Carolyn was old. Not sure how old, doesn’t matter, too old for the likes of me. And fat. Wore glasses. No makeup. It’s like she gave up trying to be attractive for men. Or women. Whichever. I’m not sexist.
She may have won a Nobel in her day, but she sure was nothing to look at.
— LJ Breedlove (@LJBreedlove) April 1, 2018
She caught my eye in a peripheral sort of way; just enough that I noticed her form in the background. Upon inspection, her tight frown and standoffish demeanor invited me to skate my eyes away from her in discomfort. Moments later, she was completely erased from my memory.
— Alicia Mestre (@aliciamestre) April 1, 2018
Let’s be realistic, as a middle-aged woman in tech, no male author would describe me, ever.
— Kathleen (@PeaceLoveUnix) April 1, 2018
And in terms of descriptions of diverse characters, Asian women knew exactly what to expect.
— Amanda Wong (@amandawtwong) April 1, 2018
[insert something about being mixed race and how that makes me petite and inherently submissive but juxtapose it with the idea of me being adorably aggressive and will stand up for myself. But make it sound endearing. ]
— Lilly Beth Chung (@LillyBethChungx) April 1, 2018
something abt porcelain skin because Asian, something about petite and submissive because Asian, something about silky raven Asian hair, something about exotic and something about almond shaped eyes because Asian
— Marie Lum 林 (@PuccaNoodles) April 1, 2018
Some respondents had fun with the challenge, but the reason their satire works is that it’s playing off of characterizations we’ve seen time and time again.
She was beautiful, inside and out, even with her flaws, which were few and endearing. After all, if I cared to notice anything deeper about her and consider her a dimensional human being my obsessive fantasy of her might be shattered.
— Cami Ragaglia (@Cami_Rags) April 1, 2018
Now some of the men in the thread are chiming in that it’s making them scared to write female characters.
Every dude who has responded to this thread with “this makes me scared to write women” — stop it, cut it out, nobody cares, just treat us like people. https://t.co/zJyp8I7Lss
— Kate Leth 🦇✨🌈 (@kateleth) April 2, 2018
My dudes, no one is saying that you shouldn’t try. Just try to write your women as humans (or aliens, or what have you) instead of sexual objects. If you’re worried about your characterization, ask a lady friend for their opinion, or find a lady editor and listen to their feedback. We need men to write women with sensitivity and grace. And I promise we don’t think about our boobs half so much as you imagine.
(images: Twitter, Tumblr)
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