I was one of the writers at dinner with Donna when we had this discussion. And truth be told, I bet it was me she was referring to when she mentioned a shocked look. Not only do I identify myself as a female write, but I am also a complete sexist on the topic!
Let me try to illustrate how unbalanced I am on this subject.
1) If asked who my audience is I would reply women. I like to write about women and for women. My stories are meant to be pure escapism and they always have uplifting endings. Not because I think we girls can’t read the harsh stuff, but because every woman I know already deals with so much bitter reality when we do get a chance to sit down and read, let’s take some time to enjoy ourselves. Despite living in the 21st century women still carry the lion’s share when caring for house and home. We are also expected to contribute financially and so many of us, including myself, have now taken on the care of aging parents. The last thing I want to read about is some man’s middle age crisis or rape fantasy! I would much rather read a book where the strong, single mother wins her fight against whatever devious scheme some man has tried to inflict on her…and both her kids end up at Harvard.
2) My gender shapes how I view the world. Period. I am not here to debate whether or not it should happen this way, for me it does. My being a woman is true north, the center of the universe. Most of my friends are female and I tend to be more interested in women’s issues when it comes to politics. It is reflected in the decisions I make, the clothes I buy, the things I eat, how I speak and act. I worry about my hair and own several pairs of high heeled shoes. And I do not think that in any way this detracts from my intelligence or moral character. Even as I smile and laugh, I don’t perceive myself as vapid. It is a sense of pride for me that after almost 25 years of marriage my husband still compliments me on my appearance and my kids ask me to cook specific things for them.
3) I don’t think like a man, so therefore I often have difficulty with writing realistic, well rounded male characters. I have to be focused on not slapping them with stereotypes or whatever. It is my most fervent hope that male authors return the favor. Hope you get the hint, Clive Clusser as I know Ian Fleming did not!
While I will admit that some men have written female characters that are realistic….I just can’t think of one at the moment. For example, Lady Macbeth has always left a bad taste in my mouth. At first she was all about killing Duncan! She told her husband to stop whining and take care of business. Then she goes crazy in scene 3 with nightmares and sleepwalking….what??? Was Shakespeare trying to make a point that we girls crack under pressure sooner? The other side of the coin is Scarlet O’Hara. Margaret Mitchell knew exactly what she would do when faced with war, poverty, starvation, etc. Scarlett rises up and deals with it, while still being the prettiest girl at the ball.
Before everyone jumps down my throat, let me be crystal clear….I DO NOT THINK ONLY WOMEN SHOULD WRITE ABOUT WOMEN AND ONLY MEN SHOULD WRITE ABOUT MEN! I THINK THAT WOMEN’S FEMALE CHARACTERS ARE MORE WELL DRAWN THAN MEN’S FEMALE CHARACTERS!
4) Finally, let me state that I think all women who create are wonderful. Most of us will never have a “room of our own and fifty pounds a year,” so it’s even harder for us to find opportunities to really interact with our own creativity. We have the power to bring life into the world and we do so in many ways.
I agree with Donna 100% when she states that writing does not require you to be a specific gender to turn out a good story. And I hope that one day I will evolve into a writer who is less influenced by her gender.