I read a social media post early this week that I was hard-pressed not to comment on. I'm trying for a kinder, gentler SS@S this year. Yeah. We'll see. Anyway, this dad talked about how he parents his small children differently because of their gender. Re: the son, he said he's "a mini-me" and how he teaches him to "do things" and how to "be a man." Parenting his (albeit toddler) daughter was mostly about showing her how a man should treat her.
Umm. Yeah. Got my back up a bit. Not only are children NOT miniature parental selves and when
are parents going to get over that particular failing? But worse was how all the male fatherly toadies in the comments AGREED with the whole thing. They praised him for articulating so well how it is for a father to raise boys and girls.
Because, girls. Everyone knows all that counts to girls and women is how a man treats her. It's all my husband should offer my daughter, certainly. Never-mind he has at least as many things in common with her (eyebrows, an engineering brain, mathmatical thinking, just plain smarticles) as I do (body type, born storyteller, artistic sensibilities). Hell, her qualities could matter less as long as she knows how a man should treat her.
Sexism, it's just not for the workplace anymore.
And incidentally, where is the responsibility of women in all this? Do we get to teach boys how to treat women? Maybe we can teach boys how women should treat men. Or maybe, gasp, we can all teach our children how people should treat people.
In a kinder, gentler world, maybe.
Later this week some guy writers who I respect, Wendig, Sykes, Kemp, wrote about writing genders. Go read 'em. I'll be here. There's even this link to a Gaiman piece on the gender of books.
Anyway, I thought I'd chime in cuz I often write guys and also maybe someone else from the opposite gender should speak to the issue, if I can carve time out of my busy schedule of worrying over how men treat me. (And this: I hate that expression "opposite gender." Men and women aren't opposites. They're more like puzzle pieces. And every single damn one of us is different.)
But to the topic of gender in stories: despite writing so many guys, I'm told I write strong female characters. Granted, in my current series, THE SEVEN EYES, the women are secondary characters. But I hope they're not just strong. To me all characters with much stage time should show some weaknesses, too. My two primary, er, secondary female characters have flaws. They make bad decisions and have to live with them. They get pissed at the lead character, Draken, when he's being an ass...and sometimes he is an ass. Sometimes they lean on him and other men too much. Sometimes they kick ass. Sometimes they cry.
Sometimes that's all there is to do.
One thing they don't do is worry over how men treat them. They do something about it.
Draken is part of that problem. I'm told he's a manly-man in a traditional (pfft) sense: he kicks ass, rushes into battle unafraid, serves his Queen and his people without hesitation, laments the loss of his wife. He also gets depressed, frustrated, and has few people he trusts, so he doesn't share much. His main friendship is grounded in situation rather than emotion. I think it's a particularly male sort of friendship.
And yet... yet. Draken's sister develops the same sort of friendship in EMISSARY.
But I think it's the m/f relationships that start to blur the lines. Draken's duty is to protect the Queen, but it's not a spoiler to say she's Draken's love interest. There's a lot of conflict between the Queen and Draken in EMISSARY because protectionism is one of the more subtler, insidious forms of sexism. Maybe it starts with the "my-only-job-is-to-show-her-how-men-should-treat-her" brand of parenting. Draken suffers from the delusion that this is what relationships between men and women are.
He means well, but then, so do a lot of guys.
So are the SEVEN EYES stories male or female? There's an awful lot of bashing with swords. But there's also a lot of relationship wrangling, angst, and secrets...the stuff of soap operas.
So who the hell knows what's feminine and what's masculine? How do you qualify a story as one or the other without leaping into stereotype? I hold that no one can claim certain qualities for half the race. And when it gets down to it, writers certainly shouldn't.