Author Topic: Men writing women characters  (Read 3686 times)

Re: Men writing women characters
« Reply #30 on: April 05, 2018, 05:32:16 PM »
also the problem sort of lies in the ubiquity of that perspective. the pervasive, narrow idea that damaged men describing women's breasts is part of what constitutes an interesting authorial voice

Wet Blanket

  • I am the Colour Blind Dog-Thief
Re: Men writing women characters
« Reply #31 on: April 05, 2018, 05:55:10 PM »
You're right: that is a specific type of authorial voice that dominated the literary scene during the middle part of the 20th Century, but is it still the dominant one? I'm not convinced. Most of the authors she's pulled up there are either elderly or dead.

It just seems like this 'male writers' thing is a bit of a pat criticism by people (not you) who are probably not actually that bothered about literature and don't really know much about it.

Funcrusher

  • Been shot up more times than Tom Mix
Re: Men writing women characters
« Reply #32 on: April 05, 2018, 06:07:55 PM »
I don't know why I'm choosing this hill to die on but...

Nearly all of those examples are of first-person male-perspective narratives from novels pointedly about fucked up men. I don't think it's fair to use deliberate explorations of men's basest impulses as indefensible examples of retrograde attitudes. There's something sort of philistine about complaining a Philip Roth character isn't a bastion of progressive values.... But then presumably that tweeter hasn't read any of these books, just searched for contentious sounding lines to quote out of context.

Yeah, this. Not exactly the most up-to-date examples given that Bellow died in 2005, Updike in in 2009 and Roth has been retired for almost a decade. All those quotes are without context, so we have no idea whose voice they are in. And I don't really want or need a bunch of annotations telling me that Harry Angstrom is not a good role model and don't try this at home.

Famous Mortimer

  • War - it's fantastic!
    • International Syndicate of Cult Film Critics
Re: Men writing women characters
« Reply #33 on: April 05, 2018, 08:15:58 PM »
No matter what examples you provide, I'll think they're wrong. I just want you to waste your time.
FTFY

Chriddof

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Re: Men writing women characters
« Reply #34 on: April 05, 2018, 09:00:17 PM »
(I'm just going to pointlessly add here, apropos of nothing, that I agree that the Mole books are generally well observed, it's just certain things have always stuck out for me. I suppose it's rather nit-picky. Everything I've said here doesn't have anything to do with the rest of the thread, sorry.)

Funcrusher

  • Been shot up more times than Tom Mix
Re: Men writing women characters
« Reply #35 on: April 05, 2018, 09:18:28 PM »
FTFY

Thanks for taking the time to address the content in my post rather than just posting snark. Good job!

manticore

  • 'nut with really wacky opinions'
Re: Men writing women characters
« Reply #36 on: April 05, 2018, 11:13:47 PM »
A couple of examples in that twitter thing aren't relevant to the point she's making. Ian McEwan's character thinking about a particular woman when he thinks about sex and in the process thinking about her breasts - not quite sure what is objectionable in that.

A lot of those Great American Novelists, like the ones she cites, are pretty macho though. I've never been much interested in those types of writers, which is maybe why I'm not sure which ones this woman is parodying in this clip I posted before, about which NOBODY HAS ANSWERED MY QUESTION.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUrqUWNcSOg
« Last Edit: April 06, 2018, 02:23:10 AM by manticore »

newbridge

  • Endless Summer of George
Re: Men writing women characters
« Reply #37 on: April 06, 2018, 12:19:48 AM »
It just seems like this 'male writers' thing is a bit of a pat criticism by people (not you) who are probably not actually that bothered about literature and don't really know much about it.

This is a silly claim, considering the overwhelming majority of critically acclaimed writers in modern history are flagrantly sexist and either incompetent or unconcerned with portraying developed female characters. Not only in the "unenlightened" past but continuing through the present. In fact, I presume most of these jokes are drawn from women's actual experience and specifically directed at a stereotypical contemporary figure of a male, liberal, New York-tied professional writer or liberal arts professor.

Obviously nobody is talking about all male writers in the history of civilization, as I was trying to say by pointing out that I doubt anyone is criticizing Tolstoy (who certainly had extremely nuanced female characters, what with him being arguably the greatest writer of all time and all) or Joyce (who I don't think of having sexist characters, I was just pointing out that Molly Bloom is not very developed and it's never even been clear to me whether the final chapter of Ulysses is genuinely from her perspective, or from Leopold imagining her perspective).

newbridge

  • Endless Summer of George
Re: Men writing women characters
« Reply #38 on: April 06, 2018, 12:24:41 AM »
And it wouldn't be difficult for me to drop into the library and pull out some examples from the romance section of women writers objectifying men.

Yeah, so imagine how fucking furious you would be if several centuries of matriarchal societal norms dictated that the "greatest" writers of all time, and the contemporary writers who enjoy the most critical acclaim, secure the most prestigious academic positions, etc., were authors like the Fifty Shades of Grey woman (I don't even know if she has two-dimensional male characters, but let's assume so).

manticore

  • 'nut with really wacky opinions'
Re: Men writing women characters
« Reply #39 on: April 06, 2018, 01:25:58 AM »
A woman friend of mine who has read Fifty Shades of Grey and likes it tells me the bloke in it is a complicated character with an interesting childhood which is what led to him to be into the kinky sex. She says the sex is good to read but the book is really a relationship story and about how he changes his attitude over the course of the story. Badly written and everything but I gather that the man in it is not just a sex object or two-dimensional.


Funcrusher

  • Been shot up more times than Tom Mix
Re: Men writing women characters
« Reply #40 on: April 06, 2018, 08:21:39 AM »
the overwhelming majority of critically acclaimed writers in modern history are flagrantly sexist and either incompetent or unconcerned with portraying developed female characters. Not only in the "unenlightened" past but continuing through the present.

And that's incontrovertible established fact and not hyperbole on your part? And of course it's entirely fair to judge writing done in the past by today's standards, rather than viewing it in context.

buttgammon

  • You can't trust a man what's made of gas
Re: Men writing women characters
« Reply #41 on: April 06, 2018, 09:30:55 AM »
This is a silly claim, considering the overwhelming majority of critically acclaimed writers in modern history are flagrantly sexist and either incompetent or unconcerned with portraying developed female characters. Not only in the "unenlightened" past but continuing through the present. In fact, I presume most of these jokes are drawn from women's actual experience and specifically directed at a stereotypical contemporary figure of a male, liberal, New York-tied professional writer or liberal arts professor.

Obviously nobody is talking about all male writers in the history of civilization, as I was trying to say by pointing out that I doubt anyone is criticizing Tolstoy (who certainly had extremely nuanced female characters, what with him being arguably the greatest writer of all time and all) or Joyce (who I don't think of having sexist characters, I was just pointing out that Molly Bloom is not very developed and it's never even been clear to me whether the final chapter of Ulysses is genuinely from her perspective, or from Leopold imagining her perspective).

At risk of turning this into another Joyce thread...

To be fair, I have (admittedly, not very often) heard Joyce accused of being a sexist writer. He certainly held some dubious views about women, and as a student, he liked saying "woman is an animal that micturates once a day, defecates once a week, menstruates once a month, and paturates once a year." That may well be immaturity talking, but he always maintained that obsession with bodily functions at least. I've heard much weirder claims too, but one thing I've found from years of loving and studying Joyce is that his detractors are as obsessive as his admirers.

I don't agree with the idea that 'Penelope' is from Leopold's imagination, but there certainly is something in the idea that the way she is seen throughout the novel is influenced by his thoughts and desires. I'd even go so far as to say he has mainpulated her liaison with Blazes Boylan to support some kind of cuckold fetish; he certainly seems very anxious when he sees Boylan and it looks like he's going to be late.

I recently worked on a paper that was largely based on Gerty MacDowell (the girl on the beach in 'Nausicaa') recently and I think she's at least as interesting as Molly. We see the distant exchange between her and Bloom and it's only when you look through the breathlessness of her thoughts that you realise she is the one driving the situation. She has such a tight control over her image, managing to conceal her limp for so long. One thing I discovered recently is the fact that the tablets she mentions are actually abortion pills; knowing that completely transformed that chapter for me.

Re: Men writing women characters
« Reply #42 on: April 06, 2018, 08:17:27 PM »
And of course it's entirely fair to judge writing done in the past by today's standards, rather than viewing it in context.

no critiques of the colonialism in Conrad's stuff please lads, that shit isn't fair

manticore

  • 'nut with really wacky opinions'
Re: Men writing women characters
« Reply #43 on: April 06, 2018, 10:56:08 PM »
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUrqUWNcSOg

It turns out the woman in this video has since become a man, which adds an interesting twist to her perspective on male novelists.

'Q: How many male novelists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: He lit a cigarette. His glass of whiskey lit a cigarette too. “I can only truly love my best friend,” he said, “but not in a gay way. Women wouldn’t understand it. They’re too gay.” Both of the cigarettes agreed.

Q: How many male novelists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: The beast, which had represented his feelings, was dead. “I think I’ll do a pushup,” he announced to the sea. The sea respected him for it.'

Funcrusher

  • Been shot up more times than Tom Mix
Re: Men writing women characters
« Reply #44 on: April 06, 2018, 11:24:48 PM »
no critiques of the colonialism in Conrad's stuff please lads, that shit isn't fair

An intelligent critique would view it in context.

Famous Mortimer

  • War - it's fantastic!
    • International Syndicate of Cult Film Critics
Re: Men writing women characters
« Reply #45 on: April 06, 2018, 11:26:22 PM »
Everyone was racist back then! Until the day when everyone suddenly decided not to be any more.

Re: Men writing women characters
« Reply #46 on: April 06, 2018, 11:38:54 PM »
An intelligent critique would view it in context.

a truly intelligent critique would be able to do both, view it in context and from the vantage point of the present, using context to understand rather than to merely explain away or excuse

Funcrusher

  • Been shot up more times than Tom Mix
Re: Men writing women characters
« Reply #47 on: April 06, 2018, 11:51:18 PM »
a truly intelligent critique would be able to do both, view it in context and from the vantage point of the present, using context to understand rather than to merely explain away or excuse

An intelligent critique would not be an exercise in which the critic bigs themselves up for having a more advanced view than a text written over a hundred years ago.

Re: Men writing women characters
« Reply #48 on: April 06, 2018, 11:51:43 PM »
ok...

not what i was saying though...

Mister Six

  • Half-masted, bass-boosted, sling-backed
Re: Men writing women characters
« Reply #49 on: April 25, 2018, 01:47:53 PM »
Here's a tweet thread that gives some real examples: https://twitter.com/chick_in_kiev/status/980502688017379328

Some of those are more heinous than others. The JRR Martin one is awful, obviously, because what do her breasts, their size or their movement have to do with anything? Especially in a chapter focusing on Dany.

But complaining about some of the ones that are from a male POV (especially the McEwan one, which really is inoccuous - it's a man talking about how much he loves being with a woman, and describes how their bodies interact when they're lying in bed) are a bit rum.

Re: Men writing women characters
« Reply #50 on: April 25, 2018, 02:05:02 PM »
Yes, in the McEwan example the character is talking about being intimate with his wife, so it doesn't really seem like an example of unreasonable sexualisation. It's only natural that he would be sexually attracted to his wife, surely? And that they would have a shared sexual life?

But that's the kind of nuance you lose when you just search for the word 'breasts' in PDF docs

Re: Men writing women characters
« Reply #51 on: April 25, 2018, 03:32:42 PM »
Never read GoT, but aren't her breasts mentioned because she's not wearing a bra? "If the Milk Men thought her such a savage, she would dress the part for them." The implication is she would usually dress differently.

Mister Six

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Re: Men writing women characters
« Reply #52 on: April 25, 2018, 03:57:24 PM »
Aye, but you can just say "her rigid bodice was discarded in favour of a painted Dothraki vest". You didn't have to create an image of her tits and their movement.

Re: Men writing women characters
« Reply #53 on: April 25, 2018, 04:01:43 PM »
Aye, but you can just say "her rigid bodice was discarded in favour of a painted Dothraki vest".

You could. It would be worse though, as it wouldn't get across the idea that she's doing something she considers not befitting of a lady.

edited to add quote for clarity
« Last Edit: April 25, 2018, 04:18:22 PM by marquis_de_sad »

Re: Men writing women characters
« Reply #54 on: April 25, 2018, 04:10:40 PM »
Interestingly, Lavin is assuming that the way a woman presents herself is done solely to please men. Usually that is considered sexist. In fact, the way the passage is written shows that Daenerys is conscious of her body. The context is her transformation from submissive, high-born plaything of a 'civilised' culture to her taking an active role in an 'uncivilised' one. Specifically in that sentence, she is becoming aware and in control of her sexuality.

Although, again, I've only seen the TV programme. Maybe Martin portrays women in a sexist way but coincidently Lavin has chosen a bad example that isn't representative.

Mister Six

  • Half-masted, bass-boosted, sling-backed
Re: Men writing women characters
« Reply #55 on: April 26, 2018, 05:51:33 AM »
You could. It would be worse though, as it wouldn't get across the idea that she's doing something she considers not befitting of a lady.

You can get that across without talking about her tits too.

gilbertharding

  • Not even the rudest man in the Beatles
Re: Men writing women characters
« Reply #56 on: April 26, 2018, 02:10:03 PM »
Aye, but you can just say "her rigid bodice was discarded in favour of a painted Dothraki vest". You didn't have to create an image of her tits and their movement.

I've never read GoT or seen the tv series, but I have the urge to quote Nigel Tufnel and ask, "What's wrong with being sexy?" here.

Re: Men writing women characters
« Reply #57 on: April 26, 2018, 10:25:22 PM »
It's GoT, everyone who watches it mentions how much tits and shagging there is in the dingly dell; he's probably just reading the crowd.