Saturday, May 4, 2013

Getting The Women's Perspective

Ever since I took a class called "Psychology of Women" in my second year of college I've considered myself a feminist.
I know, that word can have some negative connotations. My thought on the matter are less in line with bra-burning and more in line with something that writer George R. R. Martin once said:
That class, although focusing on the female psyche, helped me to learn more about myself and the world around me more than any other class I'd taken before or since. I immediately decided that I would try to do my part to represent women as they actually are (people) in the form that I know best; writing.

It's no secret that women are underrepresented in entertainment/media unless it comes to something "feminine". We see this every day: most television shows and movies feature a male lead character regardless of the role. Women are typically only featured as main characters in chick flicks; and to top it off they're always looking to solve their problems by finding the right man.

My plan became twofold; to write more stories with females as the lead character, and to portray them as people and not simply as women.
The first step has been fairly simple. There are still times when I prefer to write with male lead characters, but even then I'm always sure to write any female characters as capable and well-rounded human beings instead of needy and codependent stereotypes.
The second step has taken some practice. It's one thing to make women capable and well-rounded, (which I've found also makes stories more interesting since it's so contrary to the stereotype), but it's another thing to get their perspective just right.

I may have finally done just that.

I recently had my writing class read over my latest short story about "the other woman" in an affair. The story is told in the first-person perspective from her point of view. Overall, the class praised my successful effort to make the reader empathize with the woman who could be viewed as a home wrecker (though there was one bigoted student who insisted she was a "whore") as well as my successful effort to make the character interesting (one student said "I wish I could meet her").
But there was one compliment that I wasn't expecting to hear.

Something I had written into the story simply as a character trait and stylistic choice really resonated with the female readers. It turned out I had accidentally stumbled upon something of a universal truth among most young women that one reader described saying (something along the lines of) "why can't all guys think like this?". Many more of the women in the classroom immediately felt the need to interject with their own excited claims that they, too, felt exactly the same way as the character in the story. You cannot imagine the feeling of hearing such praise for something I'd not intended to be so relatable!

I'm not saying that I've got it all figured out. But it's absolutely refreshing to know that I was able to, if only for this once, think like a woman and see the world from her perspective.

Oh, and they thought the story was hilarious! You'll have to read it sometime.

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