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“Describe Yourself Like a Male Author Would” Thread Is a Thing of Snarky Genius

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:

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.

And in terms of descriptions of diverse characters, Asian women knew exactly what to expect.

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.

Now some of the men in the thread are chiming in that it’s making them scared to write female characters.

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.

Male writer describes a women

(images: Twitter, Tumblr)

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Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.