Is Femininity Obsolete? Writing Female Characters

Is femininity obsolete? Why does any trait that remotely resembles a “traditional” woman’s is frowned upon and viewed with disgust? Why do readers get so worked up when a “girly-girl” graces the stage and praise the tomboy? It’s a disturbing trend that I intend to crush, one MC at a time.

 

MISOGYNY

 

We cannot approach this subject without first addressing the glaring elephant in the room. Misogyny. The word itself derives from the two Greek words, misein (hatred) and gyne (women). Its funny that when we think of misogynists, we think of an old, bitter, balding man with no hope of ever getting the pretty young thing to like him. And this, while there is some definite truth to it, is not the full picture. The glaringly obvious facts of the matter is, the biggest perpetrators are women!

How ironic that women hate women, or more specifically, femininity. It’s funny that even the feminist, who claim they want equal rights look down on the very characteristics that makes them uniquely female. They spurge traditionally female qualities as weaknesses and attempt to shed them like a second skin in favor of more traditionally masculine traits.

Why?

Society? Perhaps. This misogyny is not just confined to the real world, it is too often spilled over into the realm of fiction as well when writing female characters. Its time to end this. End it now.

 

FEMININE IS NOT WEAK!

 

For too long women have been called the “weaker vessel.” If we’re angry, we’re just being emotional; if we’re emotional, it must be that time of the month. If we cry, we’re just being a girl, if we’re smart, we’re just trying to be like the boys. The list goes on and on.

My first question is…what’s wrong with crying? One female character I can think of that got a LOT of flack for being too feminine…Sansa Stark. My goodness! Game of Thrones fans, the world over, loved to hate Sansa Stark. Book readers and show watchers alike. She is pegged as being the spoiled brat, the idiot, etc. There all whole websites dedicated to the hatred of Sansa.

Femininity obsolete

I would venture to say, it’s not just the poor decisions that caused such a visceral dislike of this character. After all, her little sister Arya, made some questionable decisions as well and yet received none of the backlash for it. I venture to say, because Sansa, acted like, and thought like, a “typical” pre-pubescent GIRL who is boy crazy, quick to fall in love, and inherently gentle, she is instantly disliked. Sansa was helpless under her circumstances in the court, under the direct supervision of some of fiction’s most reprehensible villains, and because she didn’t come out guns blazing, she is hated the world over.

is arya destroying femininity?Arya, however, was every bit as spoiled a brat as her sister. She didn’t control her tongue nor her brash temper and often lashed out when silence would have been more prudent. Yet, because Arya (as a female character) was a tomboy, more interested in fighting and bloodshed, she is instantly one of the favorite characters.

Why?

Breaking the Stigma: Tears

First of all let me just say, tears are cathartic. It is a natural response that stimulates healing and growth. They allow the person to vent their pent up emotions and begin again with a clear mind. Tears are a natural stress reliever and practitioners are less likely to develop heart disease and hypertension. This is a major contributing factor to why those who release through this method tend to live longer than those who do not.

The fact that those who look down this method as being “girly” tend to have an array of health problems is very telling indeed. Tears are not just restricted to women and it’s high time female characters are not penalized for this very human response.

internal conlict

So how to combat this? We must discuss the quintessential “female” quality that people just seem determined to loathe.

Don’t just have her blubbering for no apparent reason! If she is crying, there needs to be a cause and it CANNOT be just because she is a girl.

Has she undergone a traumatic event?

Is she truly heartbroken and defeated? Offer some valid explanation behind her tears.

Her first and only resort should not be breaking down into a massive heap on the ground. Women, contrary to popular beliefs do not just cry for no reason. It is usually out of frustration and helplessness after they have exhausted all of their options. Women will fight tooth and nail for what they want and only then will the tears flow if their work was for naught.

Breaking the Stigma: Traditional Roles

Motherhood. Wife. Daughter. Teacher. Nurse, etc.

The traditional caregiver roles are scorned in fiction. Why is it that mothers tend to face some terrible fate at the beginning of the story? Why is it that wife-hood is frowned upon for women in fiction, especially in fantasy? It’s almost as if the female character loses her value once she takes on any of these roles.

Let’s not mince words, let’s take motherhood as prime example. Have we forgotten? A mother protecting her young is the most dangerous creature on the face of the earth. Don’t believe me? Run up on a lioness’ cubs and see what happens to you. Mother bear perhaps? Even a hen protecting her chicks will pluck an eye out and not even think twice about it.

Women are naturally fierce! Your character does not need to wield a dagger and bullwhip to be feared. All she needs to do is nail her assailant with her steely glare to demand respect.

 

MASCULINE DOES NOT EQUAL STRENGTH

Fiction has a tendency to glorify traditionally masculine traits such as forthrightness and butt kicking ability. While they have their place, it is a dangerous notion to think that is all strength is.Maleficent Jolie

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good butt kicking scene where the female MC throws down. But, it begs to be asked. Who is stronger?

A woman who lost everything she values and lashes out and beats the crap out of anyone who gets in her way? OR, a woman, who equally has lost everything, and yet, she maintains her dignity, she does not lose her temper and instead bears the burdens she must until she can make her move?

Who is stronger?

A woman who takes a slap to the face and rages and screams? Or the woman who takes the same slap in the face and gets up quietly, while turning the other cheek for another slap?

Who is stronger?

A woman who is assaulted and keeps her emotions bottled up and crippled by them? OR woman who is assaulted, grieves and then pick herself up again?

The point is, your characters can display the brash masculine bravado, or they can display the quiet grace. Both are a form of strength and neither is better than the other.

SIDE NOTE: Women have a natural pain tolerance that far exceeds that of a man. A woman in labor experiences pain equivalent to every bone in her body breaking. How many masculines can survive that pain threshold? IJS!

 

HUMANITY OVER FEMININITY

The best piece of advice I can give you on this subject is this…write a character. The fact that she happens to be a female character is a mute point. A woman can be anything, do anything. Do not restrict her to being the mean girl, the boy crazy girl, the ultra smart don’t care about boys girl, or the tomboy despises pink girl.

She can be a tomboy and STILL love pink. Pink jeans anyone? Pink sneakers? Focus on developing your character and let the gender be side information.

Sansa Stark, despite what anyone else says, is perhaps the strongest character (in general, not just female character) in the entire series of Game of Thrones. She has survived Joffrey, Cersei, Little Finger, Margery Tyrell, Lysa Arryn, and Ramsey Bolton! She grit her teeth and did what she had to, to survive! AND, she did it without losing herself, in the process. The same cannot truly be said for Arya nor Daenerys, both lost a part of themselves to get where they are now.

 

Consider this quote by George R.R. Martin:

 

That’s all I got for you folks. What do you think? Drop me a line in the comment section and let’s get the discussion popping!

 

WORD!

 

6 Comments

  1. Reply

    Tisha

    November 15, 2017

    This is such an important read! As ashamed as I am to admit it, even as a female, I have often found myself viewing typical feminine traits or behaviours as weak because I guess this is how society has programmed me to think! The first step to dealing with such issues is to continue to educate people- especially the younger generation! Thank you for this empowering read!

    • Reply

      Sherri Genesys

      December 10, 2017

      Thank you! I thought so, too. Society programs us to value the masculine above the feminine. It makes us believe that we are inferior for having the nurturing spirit when nothing can be further from the truth. I’m of the mindset that the world needs a bit more of the “feminine;” we have enough war, forwardness and bravado, we need healing and understanding and above all, love. Love, will make the world a better place.

  2. Reply

    Sandy

    November 14, 2017

    I really like this piece. I was listening to 2 spiritual leaders (females) address this topic. Basically how we are put into these masculine and feminine energies for a reason and neither is less valid than the other. While everyone is allowed to live as we see fit, when we fight against are natural feminine energies it really does us a disservice. Thanks for addressing the topic.

    • Reply

      Sherri Genesys

      December 10, 2017

      No problem! I’m so glad you liked it! I absolutely agree that if we fight against or dismiss our natural energies that we are doing a great disservice. Both must be in play for the cosmic order to remain intact. It is the delicate balance that ensures that everything in existence was not only created but maintained.

  3. Reply

    Suo

    November 13, 2017

    Hi Sherri,

    Great post. I agree with you that women often seem to be portrayed by extremes and Sansa and Arya are great examples, at the beginning if the saga. Though I disagree with you that we love Arya because she is a Tomboy and hate Sansa as the epitome of femininity. I loved Arya because she was fearless and took action… not solely a male characteristic IMO. I disliked Sansa because she was a wet rag! This was a construct of the writer. He gave her a passive, dim witted personality, that appeared incapable of thought and was easily manipulated. She was little more than a pretty, mindless doll at that stage. Both girls had entirely different horrors to survive which required one to show weakness as her defence and the other to hide it. The writer gave each, the character to aid their survival and both had the brains to use their strengths. That Sansa came out the other side using her assets, but relying on her intelligence and experience, certainly made her a stronger more likeable character.
    Too often ‘femininity’ is used at best, as a euphemism for useless…. a female character who is a foil, or partner, for the handsome, fearless hero. She is usually described as being beautiful, ethereal, gentle, passive and is quite often completely without confidence in her own thoughts and abilities. At worst, femininity is used to describe a creature who will use her assets and gender stereotype to exploit the people around her… neither are terribly likeable.
    And why is it that female charcaters who don’t have those ‘feminine’ qualities are thought of as being manly or a tomboy! These are all stereotypes that do little to realistically portray women in all our glory… or not! As females, we come in many shapes and sizes and are rarely just one extreme or the other.
    I agree with you that ‘girly girls’, as you said earlier, should be able to be brave and fearless and take action but also that less ‘girly girls’ can cry and have moments of gentleness or bubbleheaded doubt, just as their male counterparts might?

    • Reply

      Sherri Genesys

      December 10, 2017

      I’m so glad the post was useful to you! Its interesting that you describe Sansa’s character as a “wet-rag.” Would this not be what I’m pointing out? If Sansa were say a male, would she be considered a wet-rag or would she be considered a boy (or waved off as “he’s just a kid!”) who hasn’t come into his manhood yet? So, then, why could the same not be said of a young girl (who was pre-pubescent when the series began mind you)? She was still mentally a child and hadn’t began to walk in the fullness of her maturity yet and still got a horrible reputation of being useless.

      I absolutely agree with your statement that:

      “Too often ‘femininity’ is used at best, as a euphemism for useless…. a female character who is a foil, or partner, for the handsome, fearless hero. She is usually described as being beautiful, ethereal, gentle, passive and is quite often completely without confidence in her own thoughts and abilities. At worst, femininity is used to describe a creature who will use her assets and gender stereotype to exploit the people around her… neither are terribly likeable.”

      This is a stereotype that I really hope to combat in my upcoming works. Thank you so much for taking the time out to comment on this post. I REALLY appreciate it, and I look forward to further discussion!

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