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.