The question of whether or not men can write convincing, realistic, well-rounded female characters has been bounced around for some time now. Of course, there are outliers like Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and Gustave Flaubert’s Emma Bovary, but all too often male writers, even critically acclaimed ones like Jonathan Franzen and Geoffrey Eugenides, fail to wow when depicting women in their novels and have been taken to task for their representations.
"By default, women have it easier than men when they attempt to craft characters of the opposite sex," novelist Sally Koslow (The Late Lamented Molly Marx) told The Atlantic in 2013. "Because our whole lives we've been reading vast amounts of literature written by men.”
Now there’s a satirical Twitter thread in which podcasters Kate Leth and Whitney Reynolds have prompted women to “Describe Yourself Like a Male Author Would,” according to The Mary Sue.
The podcasters were inspired by the author of Among the Red Stars, Gwen C. Katz, who tweeted, “A male author is insisting that he is living proof that it's possible for a male author to write an authentic female protagonist.” Katz then included the first page of his book, a hilarious example of how some men perceive that women exist only to satisfy the male gaze:
“I sauntered over, certain he’d noticed me. I’m hard to miss. I’d like to think — a little tall (but not too tall), a nice set of curves if I do say so myself, pants so impossibly tight that if I had a credit card in my back pocket you could read the expiration date. The rest of my outfit wasn’t that remarkable, just a few things lying around. You know how it is.”
Katz’s tweet unleashed a flurry of responses that inspired her to share more from the male author’s book as examples of not just his inability to write a realistic depiction of a woman but his failure to realize and admit that he couldn’t.
“I could imagine what he saw in me. Pale skin, red lips like I’d just devoured a cherry Popsicle covered in gloss, two violet eyes like Elizabeth Taylor’s. Dark hair curled slightly. And, of course, my boobs. I had them propped up all front and center, in a perfectly ladylike way. Well, kind of. Okay, that’s not really ladylike.”
Katz, the inspiration for the “describe yourself like a male author would,” opted out of joining in on the game, tweeting, “I'm not inclined to describe myself the way a male author would, because it overlaps way too much with the way a gender-policing female author would describe me, and I see enough of that already." But the thread inspired dozens of hilarious, spot-on passages of women describing themselves through a male lens.
Many of the women who responded carried on in much the same way the author Katz quoted had and described themselves as if they walked off the pages of a script for a porn film, highlighting full moist lips and giant boobs. Others took another tack and wrote of themselves as old, irrelvant, or simply invisible to men. Still others zeroed in on the double whammy of being sexualized in racially insensitive ways.
Here are some of the results.
Her breasts entered the room before her far less interesting face, decidedly maternal hips and rounded thighs. He found her voice unpleasantly audible. As his gaze dropped from her mouth (still talking!) to her cleavage, he wondered why feminists were so angry all the time. https://t.co/YtsZENYsgS
— Jennifer Weiner (@jenniferweiner) April 2, 2018
She caught my eye in a peripheral sort of way; just enough that I noticed her form in the background. Upon inspection, her tight frown and standoffish demeanor invited me to skate my eyes away from her in discomfort. Moments later, she was completely erased from my memory.
— Alicia Mestre (@aliciamestre) April 1, 2018
Let’s be realistic, as a middle-aged woman in tech, no male author would describe me, ever.
— Kathleen (@PeaceLoveUnix) April 1, 2018
As she moved her strong cocoa body gleamed as if calling to the country of Africa. Her chocolate waist moved like an alluring siren calling me to crash on the rocks of her brown buttocks. https://t.co/eY08cAprM1
— Kelechi Okafor (@kelechnekoff) April 2, 2018
something abt porcelain skin because Asian, something about petite and submissive because Asian, something about silky raven Asian hair, something about exotic and something about almond shaped eyes because Asian
— Marie Lum 林 (@PuccaNoodles) April 1, 2018
[insert something about being mixed race and how that makes me petite and inherently submissive but juxtapose it with the idea of me being adorably aggressive and will stand up for myself. But make it sound endearing. ]
— Lilly Beth Chung (@LillyBethChungx) April 1, 2018
As round as she was loud, she immediately filled the room. My first thought was that I didnt want to fuck her. My second thought was even more disturbing, she didnt seem to care. She contemplated the roundness of her own boobs and contributed something to the meeting. I missed it https://t.co/1uTe0cKCaE
— Ashley Nicole Black Panther (@ashleyn1cole) April 2, 2018
No male author has ever written an attractive fat woman in her twenties who loves life so I wouldn’t even know where to start tbh. https://t.co/sCgNL6pCG1
— Bert (@bethanyrutter) April 2, 2018
she was not what you'd call beautiful: eyes a bit too big, mouth a bit too lush, just a few too many boobs. her hair was dark, because she was smart https://t.co/5o9NMcojEq
— cow-eyed sara (@ynglindabelcher) April 1, 2018
I had big honking teeters, just enormous bosoms, and I thought about them constantly as I walked down the street, using my legs (thick, with big shapely calves), but never not thinking about my enormo honkers, https://t.co/UaCQBchchL
— Talia Lavin (@chick_in_kiev) April 1, 2018