Women in Fiction, Part 2

Some interesting comments and a related article came out of my last post on this topic.

One particular point that came up several times is that manly men do not want to read stories about manly women. Well, that certainly makes sense. I’d add that girlie-girls don’t want to read stories about manly women, nor do womanly-women.

But are strong, independent women, “manly women”? I ask because I didn’t mention “manly women” but my description must have evoked that image. Maybe tough was the word that created that picture. I hope it wasn’t clever.

Think for a moment about real-life people. I’d consider Condoleezza Rice, for example, strong, independent, smart (more than clever), and from time to time, tough. I would not consider her a manly woman.

Of course there are women today who intentionally want to look like a man and act like a man. But I’m thinking there are also women who have adopted mannish behavior without realizing it. I think of women ogling pictures of bare-chested men or punctuating every sentence with a swear word or cutting others off in traffic or in conversation.

Not that I’m saying all men do those things. But let’s be honest. As Mike Duran implied in his post, men think about sex:

“getting the girl” is the stuff of boys (and men!). Heck, that’s practically all the guys at my work talk about. (Of course, what that means for them is a whole other story.)

Men are also aggressive and because of their left-brain focus, may not be aware when it’s appropriate and when it’s not. (I have a destination to bag, so other drivers aren’t even on the road, as far as I can see. 😆 )

Unfortunately in the culture today, there seems to be a growing number of women who are adopting these behaviors, as if they are better for that conduct.

On the other side of the spectrum, though, are clingers, weak-willed women, ones who expect to be victimized and welcome it. These are the silly women who can’t help but go out on the porch in the dead of night, alone, when they know an ax murderer is in the neighborhood, because they think they heard a noise. Paaaleeezz!

Then there are the ditsy types who can’t seem to find anything interesting to say beyond fashion or entertainment. Or the piously demure types who can’t think for themselves but must parrot whatever their husband tells them. Or how about models who can’t seem to think about anything but their next workout and the half stick of celery they’re planning to have for lunch. Or what about the little old blue-haired ladies who complain about drums and guitars in church.

Enough silliness.

Through all this conversation, I discovered one thing I don’t want to find in the women characters I read about—stereotypes. I also don’t want all the women to be the same, because clearly in real life we are not.

And still I have more to say on this topic. Another day

Published in: on April 22, 2010 at 4:09 pm  Comments (5)  
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  1. These were good posts, Becky! Mike’s too! You make a good blog team. 🙂

    As I am in the midst of writing a strong woman character, the notion of a “manly woman” was puzzling. I admit to being curious how this would be defined. Does she rate her burps and spit? Or maybe argue about stopping to ask for directions. LOL…. Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

    A agree, I think it’s the stereo types we really need to steer clear of. Each character we write, male or female, should retain a unique self, void of the notion that: well, guys don’t think that way, or a woman would never do that. We are all wholly unique. A fact I find quite entertaining.

    I do agree with Mike about the romance factor. Romance is completely different for men than for woman. And again, I as a woman am not impressed by “romance” as most of my fellow sex see it. I’d much rather be hanging out with my husband doing something we both love, like surfing, or hiking or dirt bike ridding. Plus, then he gets to show off it makes him feel manly and sexy. Which he is. 🙂 This is probably why I can’t stomach most CBA romance. Nothing against the stuff, I’m just not wired that way.

    Uh, oh…does that make me manly?



  2. No, Rachel, to answer your final question. I write romance, and I read less and less CBA romance. One of the reasons for that lately is the whiny women between the covers (both book and bed). They’re high maintenance in the emotional department, too needy, too spiritually vacuous, and too demanding from their clueless men. Or they think they’re tougher, smarter, and not in need of the man they’re desperately and denyingly attracted to. Come on. Personally, I have a hard time with those women in the natural, so why would I enjoy reading about them? I can do “fragile” if done with tenderness and empathy, but whiny? No.


  3. No one’s really defined “manly woman,” but we didn’t define manly-man either. That one seems like a given. These are the men in the CSFF tour who took the cover off Faery Rebel because they didn’t want the guys at work to see them carrying around “Tinker Bell.” 😆

    But a woman who is manly, I’m suggesting in this post, is one who is as aggressive as a man. Not just some of the time or in certain situations.

    I think of that TV program with Jennifer Garner, Alias. Her character was a double agent for the CIA and was always using deadly force, but when she was off the job, she was not aggressive or pushy. I wouldn’t call her character manly.

    But in real life, I suspect it would be hard for a woman to be one way on the job and a different way in her private life.

    What I realized by writing about this is that I think fiction would be stronger for showing a variety of women-types. Even the prairie or Amish romance would be better and more interesting if some of the women were bossy instead of submissive.

    But who am I to say? I don’t read prairie or Amish romance. Maybe the women are a healthy mix of different personalities. The covers, however, make them all look the same. (They’re all so sweet! I’ve never been that sweet in all my days, more’s the pity! 😉 )



  4. Weak, clingy, and/or silly women are annoying. Strong women, however, who can think independently and are intelligent, have their own faith rather than leaning on someone else’s, don’t “need a man” to make themselves complete, I think they’re much more interesting to read about.

    The book (by a late author) I’m using for my ScriptFrenzy adaptation this month is what I’d call a non-romance romance novel, because the hero is handsome but broke, and the heroine is plain but wealthy, but they are both smart, strong, and independent, and there are no illusions or pretensions between them. It’s everyone else around them, trying to push and prod the couple into doing what they want, that helps cement the couple’s relationship, and actually shows them they have married their best friend and confidante. It’s very down-to-earth.


  5. I don’t want to read about weak, clingy or silly women either, Keanan. I don’t know very many people who would think they are attractive. But I wonder if a weak, clingy woman would be able to identify a character as such.

    I think I need to do a series of posts on romances, though I don’t feel qualified since I don’t read them. But in this discussion, they keep cropping up!



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