Writing Women as a Man; are all writers equal?

I got a review of my novel The Ecology of Lonesomeness the other day. It was good: five stars. I was delighted. This paragraph struck me: “I’ll be honest, too, that I don’t think a lot of books by men in the romance genre really and truly portray women correctly. But, this author manages to do that with Jessie very well. She is a complicated character and she manages to be complicated without being whiney or annoying – which is always a plus!”
I don’t know why this is; I mean, why a lot of books by men don’t portray women correctly, or that complicated characters would be whiney.
I do know that most romantic writers are women, or at least have female pen names, and most male writers don’t write romance – under their own name, at least.
There is definitely an expectation of this – no, a surprise I’ve experienced when I have been interviewed about my romance novels. Which, in my view and that of their publisher, are contemporary novels with romance, more than straight romance. The surprise that I write such romance as I do under my own name; excluding my J.D. Martins novellas, which are romance.
And I hope that readers aren’t very prejudicial against male writers that they’d pass one over in favour of a female name.
Why should male writers “normally” write female characters and points of view badly? After all, the opposite is rarely commented upon. Nobody said JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter, or Ron, or Dumbledore all wrong (though she did use an ambiguous name to publish under). And surely there are male points of view in many romance novels (don’t read too many, myself, I admit).
I wrote Jessie from The Ecology of Lonesomeness, and Susan in Leaving the Pack (and Cora in the sequels), and Julie in The Soul of Adam Short, as people first, and female second. The sex (if there is any, depends on the book) might be a bit different, but the need for, and capacity for, love is the same. And every other desire and motivation is also equal between the genders. At least as far as I am concerned.
Perhaps I’m different. I suppose I am, though I don’t feel much different. However, I don’t think it hard to get into the mind of a female character, if you consider women your equal. Many men don’t. But that’s a problem of their own emotional growth, or lack of it. Many men are so obsessed with their own inadequacies that they fear women – or fear strong women (strong means equal here, in case you missed it).
Luckily, male writers are not usually like that. Their inadequacies are firmly sitting in their literary challenges. Their relationships may or may not be great, but they know they are in a business where (and I know the inequality exists even if I believe it is more in the readers’ minds) women are just as proficient as they are – if not more so, to be honest.
All writers are not equal, but the division is not based on gender.
So give a male writer a chance. You might be surprised as so many other readers.

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About davidjmobrien

Writer, ecologist and teacher

Posted on September 9, 2015, in Equality, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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