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Friday, June 2, 2023

Bold Gazes of Sated Conquest and Other Absurd Wordsmithing

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II
What if women wrote male characters the way too many dudebro authors write women?

Meghan Vondriska who launched the Twitter page, Men Write Women, says
Women just want to be written as human. That's it. There isn't some wild scientific equation to writing women, and it isn't difficult. Write them as human, with complex feelings, not as body parts that happen to be put together into a feminine form," Vondriska told Bored Panda.
Yes. This
She names Stephen King as one of the guilty authors but, from what I’ve read, he’s evolved from his earlier work. I haven’t read his books since I was in my 20s so I can’t say. I don’t recall King being sexist but that may well be due to my lack of big expectations at the age of 21.

The writer that I’ve found particularly problematic is Robert Heinlein. I read him when I was in high school, WAY back in the mid ‘70s. Loved him. In 2020 and ’21, while I was in Mass General Hospital and the intensive rehab facilities, I had a lot of time on my hands. I figured I’d reread some of my old faves like Stranger in a Strange Land. OY! I tried to keep in mind that this was penned in a less enlightened era (1961) and focus on the good bits. My efforts were unsuccessful. Thomas Parker on the Black Gate blog has a spot on take:
For example, in the incoherent manifesto-cum-novel Stranger in a Strange Land (a book that is the key to all that is worst in Heinlein), the women are all completely liberated, and what do they choose to do with their liberation? Wait hand and foot on the pseudo-messiah Valentine Michael Smith and his mentor, Jubal Harshaw (who unceasingly yells “front!” and expects one or all of his infinitely pliable “secretaries” to come running up to cater to his every whim, and they do, with a patient indulgence and unfailing good humor that’s as divorced from reality as a Salvador Dali daydream).
Add to all this the undisguised goatishness of a middle-aged male writer whose idea of a well-ordered world is apparently one in which an endless stream of beautiful, cheerfully compliant young women are sexually available to him on a no-obligation basis and you’ll see why most Heinlein fans are men.
“Liberated” in Heinlein’s world seems to mean libidinous.
Christopher Moore is another one, though less egregious than Heinlein. Most of his female characters are either a bit batshit (but sexy) or smart and motherly (but sexy). In both cases the women are hopelessly attracted to geeky, semi-hapless men.

Wanna read real, actually published examples of men writing women hilariously badly? Check out this Bored Panda post.

Now check out women writing men in the same way at McSweeney’s. The examples here are satire but reverse the genders and these could easily be published pieces.

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I
What brings this to the forefront this morning? I began a book about Gustav Klimt’s painting Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I. Love Klimt, love the painting. The tale sounded like a winner—stolen from the family by Nazis, its recovery and eventual return to the family. Perhaps in another writer’s hands.

On the  very FIRST page of the prologue the author describes the sphinx outside the Belvedere Museum in Vienna.

The man strode briskly along the imperial palace’s frozen pond. Ice clung to the monumental sphinxes standing sentinel along his path, their hair swirling around fiercely beautiful faces, breasts naked between tassels dangling from armor. Their eyes cast a bold gaze of sated conquest.

Incredibly, this was written by a woman. Seems clear she’s internalized the male authored, sexed up romance novel view. She may as well have described the sphinxes as breasting boobily as they rested along the path

Here are a couple of fun snippets I found online:

He sighed, his medium-sized balls bobbing in his jeans like buoys in a sea of denim, rising and falling with his breath. They were not the firm, boisterous nuts of a young man. He lamented  this as much as the years lost.
~ Barlow Adams

He charged into the room, pert testicles bouncing gaily. I saw a scar & wondered if he'd had a vasectomy. He opened his plump lips, full of promise but annoying words came out…something about a football match.
~ Tiffany Stevenson 

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