On Wordballoons, they have an interview with Gail Simone. The interviewer asks 50 questions submitted by various message board communities.
After the obligatory Women in Refrigerators inquiry is answered about twenty minutes in, he comments on how things have improved:
It does seem like a lot of great writers that are men do seem to have a handle on–
This statement gets an enthusiastic response from Gail Simone:
Exactly, and so my point is exactly that it doesn’t take a female writer to write a good female character and Women in Refrigerators was never meant to prove that.
Which leads to another curious inquiry from the interviewer:
And no-one has ever asked the reverse, have they? In terms of how well women write men? There’s you, there’s Louise Simonson…
She answers this to the best of her ability:
I just don’t think has been as many to compare that. I don’t think being a woman means you can’t write great male characters. Everybody has their own point of view, just because you’re male doesn’t mean you share the point of view as every other male and just because you’re female doesn’t mean you share the same point of view as every other female on the planet.
And that’s kinda what I try to get is across is that the sooner that we can break down that sort of thinking, the better we will have it.
Innocent exchange? Not as the Girl-Wonder.org boards see it. Take this sampling of reactions under consideration:
Male writers in media seem to believe that this is in some way a direct attack on their ability to write believable characters.
It’s about their repeated inability to consider women as the heroes of their own stories.
And no one is saying that men can’t write women. What is being said is that there is an overwhelming mindset that men are heroes; women are adjuncts to the heroes.
I don’t for one moment believe that this is deliberate (with a few possible exceptions). It’s simply an attitude that has crept in over time and needs to be addressed. In that context, raising women’s ability to write male characters is completely irrelevant.
But I don’t think the attitude’s only a symptom: if it was the only problem, a lazy writing bad habit, people wouldn’t get so upset when we pointed it out. And they *certainly* wouldn’t be that upset if what the interviewer was contending was true.
I think the reason nobody brings up the way that women write men is that there isn’t really a problem with the way women write men. I mean even men don’t really have a problem with it. To bring it up doesn’t even make any sense though, because men and women are not like these different factions in some kind of social battle or anything. Men and women aren’t even really a binary. Women don’t exist in some enchanted culture that’s separate from the men.
I think it’s a valid question, for comparison’s sake. But what the interviewer isn’t considering is that since its conception media has always been a male dominated mechanism. Books, television, movies…the narrative conventions, the depictions of masculinity were all defined by men.
So like vivianw says, we’re all pretty much raised with some notion of what men are like as defined by men. So any woman working in this field has all that male-derived material to work from.
In contrast, women as portrayed in this male dominated industry are defined by men. They’re not really created to be women, they’re created to be “not-men” to fill all the roles men can’t or won’t, leading to some of the really odd assumptions men have about women. Even though there’ve been women scattered throughout the industry for a long time, they’ve still been stuck in a male playing field, following the guidelines and conventions of the industry if they want to get work.
That’s why men have more trouble writing women, I think, than the reverse. They grow up with these images of “not-men” and that’s what they write, because they don’t really know any better. Women in contrast have the advantage writing-wise of knowing something of men from a male perspective as well as a bit better understanding of real women on the basis of being a woman.