It all kicked off (again) on Twitter recently when, during a debate about the #ownvoices hashtag, an unnamed male author claimed that he could write an authentic female protagonist. According to YA author Gwen Katz, this is an actual quote from his actual novel:
“I sauntered over, certain he noticed me. I’m hard to miss, I’d like to think – a little tall (but not too tall), a nice set of curves if I do say so myself, pants so impossibly tight that if I had a credit card in my back pocket you could read the expiration date…”
THOUGHT NO WOMAN EVER.
This sparked a new Twitter challenge by Whitney Reynolds (host of the I Haven’t Seen That podcast) to describe yourself like a male author would – and the responses are as hilarious as they are depressing. Everything from:
“her undersized bosom did not suggest the surprise that on the other side of her was a sizeable ass. He began to think of her body as a mullet. She was business in the front and a party in the back.”
“Something about 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.”
Now obviously, not all male writers describe their female protagonists in such a way and unfortunately, I’ve read a fair few novels where female authors have described female characters using such sexist terms (most recently The Confession by Jo Spain – read my review here) but I’m sure we’re all familiar with this kind of crap (if not, read pretty much anything by Stephen King, especially his earlier work).
So the question is, how sick are you of female characters being described by the attractiveness of their anatomy? Are you offended by lazy cultural stereotypes?
And most importantly…
How would a sexist author describe YOU?
For the record, here’s my version:
It was her large baby blue eyes and long blonde hair that first caught his attention. He casually swept his gaze across her petite frame, disappointed that she wasn’t showing more cleavage. His interest lessened further as he took in her wide hips and unusually chunky calves. Yes, she should definitely be showing off more of her breasts to detract from those tree trunks, he thought as he pretended to skim her CV. He assumed she had qualifications but there was only one skill she really needed – apart from the ability to make a good cup of tea, of course – and it definitely wouldn’t be on her resumé.