Friday, March 28, 2014

Gender Equality in Writing

When I think of gender equality in writing, I'm not thinking about sex politics. Or how many characters of each gender should be in a story. Or power dynamics relating to gender in a relationship. I'm simply referring to how I approach characters of a gender in my writing. Too often when I read stories or scripts, one group or another gets the short stick.

I don't like seeing agendas. Oh, this is feminist. This is rhetoric about transgender and on and on. I didn't come to your fictional piece to be preached at. Write an essay (or blog post) for that.

Having one group of people in a story be uniformly negative is usually a giveaway of a prejudice for me--whether sexist, racist, nationalist, ageist, or whatever. Just don't do it. Make each character an individual that stands by his or her own merits, not by the inclusion or exclusion of a group or social status.

You have a character who is a woman? Will she automatically be the one is hurt or rescued? The victim? Will she be the least developed character? Oh, I'm a guy--I don't know so much about girls so I'm not going to bother...blah, blah, blah.

I've seen the same thing with male characters. All the guys are all negative or barely developed. Hey, let's make all the men abusers! Psychopaths... Mindless killing machines who are driven by sex and money. Well, I know plenty of guys like that. This one time, this guy blah, blah, blah...


What if you don't know you're doing this? Take a piece of current writing--any piece--and change every single character's gender identity. Do the character choices become strange now? Do you find some characters to be bland or weak now? Do you think some characters are detestable now?

Becoming aware of biases is a nice first step. Yet we'll all have this in our writing to some degree even if we are aware of it. It's just a matter of being in control of it and knowing how to subvert it and use it to maybe connect to people surprising ways.

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