Friday, July 29, 2005


Continuing where I left off...
So, what is it that's so hard about writing the opposite gender? On the surface, not much. Women are the moral and intellectual equals of men. They are also human beings, and all human beings have feelings and issues in common. So far, so good.
I guess the first stumbling block is that while I know that I don't harbor any (or many) sexist attitudes, my audience doesn't know that. At least, the audience who doesn't know me, which is pretty much all of them. So when I create a character, there's almost certainly someone out there who's going to scream "stereotype!!!" or some such... You may ask, why do I care? I'm a writer, and having the skin of a rhino is part of the job requirement. It's just something about the label... call me all sorts of names and they bounce off my invincible shield, but label me a sexist (or a racist) and it HURTS. Even if the critic is wrong-headed in doing so... This has happened a couple of times to me already. It will happen again, since women tend to be very sensitive to this sort of thing (and well they should be. It's 2005 and women still aren't officially, socially, governmentally, religiously, etc. on par with the guys... what the hell gives?!) But I digress...
The second problem is my lack of objectivity. I like women. I like women a lot. So when I write them, there is a tendency to idealize the characters too much.
The third problem is that I'm not a woman, and as such I can only make educated guesses about certain aspects of experiencing womanhood. I am similarly handicapped when writing minorities, being a white dude and all... I will say I am a little better off than most of my fellow majority, having experienced real, live racism. While in Japan, I got to be the minority! What fun, being constantly stopped by the fuzz and asked if my bike / car / computer bag was stolen, having folks gawk and stare at me, having folks cross to the other side of the street to avoid me, going to a blood drive and being told they wouldn't take my blood because I was caucasian, etc. etc. etc. What an eye-opener! A nice, solid reality brickbat to the skull. Wakey wakey! That was, quite seriously, probably the most valuable experience of my life, bar none... Talk about connecting to your fellow human in a way you never could before... now when friends tell me of similar experiences, I can do a little more than just nod in uncomfortable sympathy... I can generate a little righteous outrage of my own.
So, being in this kind of unfamiliar position, I got to learn a little bit about discrimination first hand, and learn that aspect... but as far as being able to really, really understand the biological differences... well, that's pretty much impossible, at least with current technology (I don't see a VR sim for PMS or pregnancy becoming available anytime soon- probably not high on the designer's drawing board). So... I'll never be able to fill in the gaps with 100% conviction.
Thank goodness, though, I have a lot of female friends that I can ask questions to who will not laugh at me no matter how pathetic and ignorant I may sound... so I soldier on.
More to come...

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