Friday, July 8, 2016

For the Girls!

We need to do better by our girls and young women. Despite having come a long way, there's still a long way to go before we are viewed as equals in the world.

A simple one for starters is women being called girls. It's demeaning. We are no longer children. Do men like being called boys? No. I've seen many get quite upset when they were called that. So why is it okay for us to refer to women as girls?

I'd also like to know why women action heroes often have to have their breasts hanging out or are not properly clothed. Even in cartoons that my daughters watch, there's the female in a skimpy outfit while the male's are fully clothed. It's degrading. Now some may argue that it's because super heroes are geared towards males. I'm sorry, boys don't need to watch cartoons where women have vast amounts of cleavage showing. In case you haven't seen the numbers, lots of women enjoy super hero and action movies.

While on the topic of action movies...can we please stop the trope with the kick ass woman wearing heels and her long hair flying around? A woman who knows she's going to be running is not going to wear heels and, personally, I can't stand my hair blowing in my face, give your hero a hair elastic to tie her hair  back with. Plus, long, loose hair, is easier to grab a hold of and yank. She would err on the side of caution and tie it back.

Can we also please do away with the stereotypical woman who loves shopping and manicures? Many women I know are not obsessed with clothes, shoes, or purses. Many women don't even bother to paint their nails, let alone spend money for a manicure. I read an urban fantasy several years ago where the female main character decided she needed a shopping break, while her life was in danger. It seemed very out of character. The author used initials, rather than a full first name, and immediately I looked it up to see that the book was written, unsurprisingly, by a man.

I've read books to my daughter at bedtime for ten years now. One thing I have noticed about books geared towards girls and young women, is that the female characters are so catty. This is a huge problem in society, women not lifting each other up. Why should we promote and encourage this behavior? Let's show girls that they can be strong, successful, and unique without other girls tearing them down. Yes, bullying and being picked on will probably always happen, but let's not go out of our way to make all female characters so cheap. I don't see a lot of books about females ages eight to twelve where one of the main conflicts is the mean girl at school.

We need to do away with gender defaults. When a police officer, doctor, or politician is mentioned in a book, what is your automatic gender association? I try to be very conscious of this when I talk to my children. The other day I used the pronoun "he" while talking about police officers and my 10 year old said, "Or she. Because girls can be police too." I was so proud of her for correcting me. Try to be conscious in your work and don't default to males filling roles. Also don't default to women doing the housework...it's sexist.

There have been numerous tweets by literary agents commenting on the lack of females in books at all. I was rather surprised and hadn't really thought about it before. The other night while watching the movie Forsaken, I realized that Demi Moore was the only woman with more than a couple lines! I think two other women had speaking parts. Our society is made up with all sorts of people, from different backgrounds, abilities, and beliefs, try to make them present in your books.

The intent of this post is not to complain, it's to raise awareness. Writing isn't just a joy, but also a responsibility. You are responsible for the thoughts you put out into the world (this goes for anything, not just writing), so please be aware of what you are releasing. If you're unsure, ask, don't rely on stereotypes.

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