I’m what they call a lurker on Reddit and one of the subreddits I follow is called r/menwritingwomen. Its actually a really good repository of snippets of published works showing how NOT to write women. On the surface, it’s not that deep. A lot of male authors fail to understand how to describe a woman without defaulting to boobs, hips, ass, and thighs. If that’s what they’re into, all for it, but that’s not all that makes up a woman, obviously.
I’ve been having an increasing “Eureka” moment as I try to figure out the rationality behind these myopic views of female anatomy. I tried to start a tweet thread, but it was way too long, so here we are.
I may be but a lowly squid, but I am very familiar with female anatomy and who women work (hint: I may or may not be a female squid). I also like to overthink and draw philosophy and meaning from certain behaviors such as the trend seen on r/menwritingwomen. You can say “Tav, it’s not that deep. These authors are just dicks”. And you may be right, but I’d like to take a little dive into what I think is going on here and no, its not just misogyny because I don’t think all of these authors see their descriptions as hating or being cruel to women. I think some of them honestly think they’re doing females a favor by accentuating key parts of their bodies. Spoilers: They’re not.
So let’s take a look at this interesting phenomena that seems to plague men writing women for as far back as writing has been a thing.
That’s right. They don’t. It seems pretty obvious doesn’t it? Is your hand happy? Is your leg scared? The post that really triggered me is the one below. I’ve read a lot of nonsense like fascination with anatomy, but this was a whole new level of “What the hell is going on here?”
Did ya read all that? Did any of it make any sense?
While not quite to this degree, I have seen a lot of male authors give breasts feelings. And no I don’t mean firm, soft, or what have you. I mean human emotions. I’m sure most reasonable men know breasts, on their own, do not have the ability to feel human emotions. The human who possesses said breasts is the one who feels curiosity and joy. So why does this happen? Why do male authors think this is something acceptable to do? Since I overthink everything, I’ve come at this from a few angles. Here are my ideas.
1.) They are NOT writing for women. They are writing for men who equally have no idea how to write or think about women. They think they can get away with weird fixations on anatomy because that’s what men will read.
2.) They genuinely don’t know how women work. Which is kind of a weak excuse since our system of feelings and emotions are pretty much the same as men. I, as a person, seeks knowledge and understanding. My arm, leg, or breasts do not. I am a person and I feel. My individual body parts do not.
3.) They genuinely believe that a woman is nothing more than the sum of her anatomy and only the parts they value carry the ability for advanced thoughts and feelings. That’s a lot, I know and maybe it does sound a bit crazy, but here me out. This is getting into misogyny territory. To me, this is the most egregious thought process that could be behind this kind of writing. It tells me that the author thinks women, as people, are incapable of emotions, but the body parts which these males fetishize are. It’s like an attempt to avoid the fact that there’s a whole human behind the chesticles. From this angle, breasts > human female. You know the stereotype of women being emotionally erratic? This is like an extension of that. A woman can’t possibly have a complex thought or feeling, so her breasts, which are of far more interest, are. It’s reductive objectification. And its toxic as fuck.
4.) Women are far more than baby-making machines. It’s pretty common in bad excerpts of men writing women to see the author measuring the ability of a woman to bear children. Because, I guess, all they care about is a woman’s ability to carry their seed? Can’t we measure a woman based on her self-worth? Not her worth in serving your desires? No? Okay. You can leave then.
I feel like of all the examples I have in this post, this one is the worst and the most tone deaf and misogynistic. This thing takes the cake for some of the worst writing I’ve ever read. Men, don’t do this. Please. If you ever think breasts can have feelings remember: BANP!
They aren’t grocery items and neither are their parts! I’m talking about the reduction of women to a thing that’s sole purpose for existing is to be chosen by men. This is a huge problem with modern women. So many feel like they need to compete against each other to “get the guy”. Ladies, squids may not swim in schools, but I do know that if you have to throw one of your own under the bus to succeed, you’re not succeeding. You’re playing into yet another shitty trait of normative femininity. You do NOT exist to “get the guy”. You exist to be you. You are not defined by your man so don’t let society tell you otherwise.
And yet some men writing women can’t help but display women as creatures that exist to be chosen at the whim of the debonair male lead. He is the one who chooses which women have value and which do not because without him, they have no purpose.
This is some grade-A male fantasy bullshit right here. The harem lord choosing his next fling and the chattel don’t even know its happening because they’re too uninteresting to think for themselves.
“Look at all these fuckable women?”
“I can only look at them, not touch.”
“What a cruel world that I can’t just grab one and fuck her. She doesn’t know what she wants. I do.”
“How can life be so cruel?”
“They’re all the same anyway.”
“Which of these cattle shall I pick for my entertainment?”
“I ogled this woman and man is she ugly.”
Do I need to break down why this is utter trash? Probably not, but let’s do it anyway!
1.) Entitlement. The MC here is is in a situation where he’s clearly surrounded by women. What’s the first thing he does? Evaluates their fuckability. He has determined that, according to his standards, half of the female population in the room would be worthy of his dick. But he can’t. He can’t fuck them. All he can do is look at them. How cruel it is that he can’t just grab a girl, any girl, and have his way with her. What kind of society protects half its population from assault? Woe is him. Also how DARE they not show their panties at a diner?!
2.) Judgement. Going back to what I wrote up top, this excerpt is a pretty good example of a male character imposing his judgement of a woman as defining their worth. The bit about the waitress and how he can obviously tell her entire life story just by examining key parts of her body.
3.) That shark-jumping assumption of rape. CLEARLY every woman that meets your eyes wants one thing and one thing only. To trick you into a relationship so she can get your money. Maybe there’s some earlier explanation that can offer some reasoning behind this thought. Did this happen to the MC? Did he have a terrible experience at the hands of a woman he loved? Without that context, which I honestly doubt there is because of how one dimensional this author is, that means this man goes around assuming women exist solely to ride his dick to the bank. Which is funny since he just mentioned wanting to fuck all of them. He also indirectly suggested that he himself was entertaining rapist thoughts by being upset that he couldn’t just have his way with any woman of his choosing. That there’s some massive mental gymnastics, my dude.
As you can see, the title of the book is “Would You Suggest Writing as a Career” and unless this is a quote taken out of context in a segment about what you SHOULDN’T DO I would say no. No I would not suggest writing as a career. Thanks.
Okay, NOW we’re talking. When is it acceptable to be an objectifying pig? Well, when it suits your character. Why write such a character at all? Because characters are based on reality and scummy people like the character in the below excerpt exist.
There’s no reason to deny that this particular character is an extension of the harsh reality that shitty people exist, but I’d like to take a moment to break down this particular piece.
It’s fairly evident that the author himself isn’t inherently a misogynist, but he aimed to portray one. I, for one, think he did a pretty good job. But let’s compare it against the more obvious “men writing women” negligence seen above.
1.) He is fantasizing about a person in the confines of his mind. Does that make it any better? No. But he has no real world victim for his perverse thoughts. The whole scenario is locked in his mind and there’s where it will stay. He’s allowed to have his shitty thoughts, but acting on them would bring him closer up to par with the previous examples.
2.) Whore’s hair and proud breasts. I mean the dude’s a piece of shit so this follows his thought process. Also, see above. Breasts cannot be proud. It’s from these terms that I’m actually coming to understand that this is a hella meta excerpt. This is a male author writing a typical male describing a woman. The author himself isn’t doing the describing even though it’s third person. No, this is the character at work. So its a man writing a man writing a woman and imo the author nailed it.
3.) This excerpt is actually a critique of the generic male thought process. I feel like this is the gist of it. Take the previous two examples of male authors really missing the mark and then read this one. It’s like it’s poking at how these kinds of men tend to think of women and, by the previous examples, the author clearly isn’t wrong. Men like this exist.
Should male chauvinists exist in literature? Of course they should. They exist in the real world so they belong in writing. Males are allowed to write shitty male characters who think women are the subjects of their desires. This doesn’t mean the male authors actually feel this way. It just shows that they understand what people like this think. Takes skill to not be an asshole, but write a convincing one.
Simple. Like they would anyone or anything else.
I’m not upset about breasts, hips and thighs being mentioned, I’m more upset about how. They’re written in a way that makes them defining to the person.
You can say a guy is buff. You can say the same about a woman. You can acknowledge that she’s well-endowed without dehumanizing her. She has great breasts. Okay that’s a bit cringe, but it’s not as bad as “HER BREASTS BOUNCED WITH EXCITEMENT AND IN ANTICIPATION OF SECRETS”.
I think what I’m trying to get at is that body parts don’t define a person so don’t give body parts human qualities. They are part of a living breathing human being who thinks and feels for themselves.
His pecs puffed out, yearning for a child.
His hips were shaped for making babies.
His lips quivered desperate for the right attention to sate their whore-ish desires.
Those don’t make sense do they? You wouldn’t say that kind of thing about a male character, would you? So why would you say it about a woman?
I think what I was getting at is that emotions and agency belong to people. Not their body parts.
To repeat: A woman can wait in anticipation of secrets, but her breasts cannot. A woman can be curious but her breasts cannot. Her breasts are part of her. They are NOT her, though. Stop denying human beings thoughts and agency just so you can fetishize a part of their body. Boobs will never love you, but a woman might.
I saw the first post and had an aneurysm. My response to aneurysms is to try to parse out the cause and write about them. I have to make sense of things that don’t make sense. Perhaps it was a waste of time, but I had a bit of fun and I hope you did, too.
If you are a male author who happened to stumble upon this, I’m not assuming you write this way, but if you see some similarities to your work, consider taking a different approach. Try writing about the whole person, not their parts. Or, at the very least, avoid trying to reduce the complex ideas of thought and agency to a single body part just because you like it. I don’t care how much you fancy breasts, they’ll never fancy you back. The person who has them might, but not if all you can ever focus on is their anatomy.
Body parts don’t think or observe the world around them. People do. Write about people, not their parts.
Unless you’re writing erotica. Then you probably still shouldn’t write shit like “Her big breasts, which had never suckled a child of her own, felt a merciless compassion”. Don’t. No one has any excuse to write that. That’s not even a thought that should be crossing anyone’s mind. It’s not hot, it’s not intelligent, its not compassionate… It’s trash. Don’t be trash. You’re better than this.
I might do this again. It was fun to go over these terrible examples of men poorly writing women. It’s fascinating how many posts there are and how completely tone-deaf and utterly ignorant these writers seem to be. Don’t be like them or you’ll end up on the subreddit and a squid might over-analyze your idiocy and write a dumb post about it.
So, until next time \o