Opinion

Men Writing Women: Why Male-Written Female Characters are the Worst

By Maddie McCarthy

madeline.mccarthy@spartans.ut.edu

During the summer of 2021, there was a trend on the social media platform TikTok where women made point of view (POV) videos titled “POV: I’m a woman written by a man.” The videos depict women in everyday situations, like working in the office, making breakfast, or hanging out in their rooms. 

However, instead of acting like a woman actually would in one of those situations, they look seductively into their camera, twirl their hair in their fingers, and look essentially perfect. The song “Glory Box” by Portishead would play in the background for an added “sexy” effect.

The women in these videos are making fun of a phenomenon called “men writing women”.

The joke about men writing women existed long before TikTok, and I suspect, long before the internet started talking about it. But internet forums, such as r/menwritingwomen on Reddit, or the Twitter account Men Write Women, make it easy to see the sheer amount of terribly written female characters that exist in the world. 

So what exactly is the problem with men writing women? Nothing, if it is done correctly. However, the issue arises when women are written solely as sexual objects.

On both the Twitter account and Reddit page, I couldn’t help but notice a common theme. Some male authors seem strangely focused on how their female characters’ breasts move, or how they look, as if they have a mind of their own.

It is absurd to read some of the entries on the forums. They remind me of why my bookshelf is dominated by mostly women authors.

Female book characters are not the only oversexualized female characters. Movies and television are littered with ultra-sexualized women that only exist for men to find them attractive. We see this plenty in movies based on comics, in action films, and in a variety of TV shows. 

Arguably the most popular example is Megan Fox’s Mikaela Banes in Transformers. The film, which was written, produced, and directed by a team of men, created the famous scene that depicts Fox bending over the hood of a car wearing a low-rise denim skirt and cropped shirt. The stills from this scene have been sold as posters for people to stick on their walls.

Though Fox would have been around 21 years old when the film was released, she was playing a teenage high school student. The way she was written is extraordinarily oversexualized in general, but it feels even creepier when you consider the intended age, or should I say, underage, of the character. 

The sexualization of the female characters is strange in comparison to how women actually go about their everyday lives.

Women do not exist solely for sexual reasons, so therefore they do not go around constantly thinking about what a man might find sexual in the way that male-written female characters do.

Sexual female characters have a time and place, but that time and place should not be when they are just existing in everyday life, and most certainly not when they are underage. It is important to have women in strong roles where they are valued as people instead of sexy, mindless robots.

As a creative writer myself, I have always considered this phenomenon beyond just men writing women. What about women writing men, or even writing outside of your own skin color? It can be hard to write from a perspective you have no experience in.

I do think that men writing women seems to be the worst, along with people writing characters that are a different skin color than themselves. I think this is due to stereotypes that have followed women and other marginalized groups for years. Negligent writers can fall into writing stereotypes instead of writing some of their characters as actual human beings.

In my case, I have no idea how a man thinks because I am not a man. However, not every single man thinks the same anyway. And I think some men will be able to identify with my male characters as long as the male characters I write are more than just sexual pawns for the female characters they exist next to.

The same goes for men writing women. 

As silly as it may seem to say this, male-written female characters prove that it is necessary for male writers to remember that women are humans too. They have complicated thoughts and feelings, and they are not constantly aware of each movement the most sexualized parts of their bodies make. 

If this is forgotten, male-written books or movies could be entirely lost on a huge potential audience, and they will continue to perpetuate the oversexualization of women in everyday life.

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