Love and Sexism
What do you think about the relationship between the sexes in romance novels? I encourage you to express your honest opinions.
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Juni Lyn
I tend to see the same role over and over in romance novels for women and men. And it could be that it is because I am reading the same authors and trying to get to new authors. Usually the women are portrayed in a couple of ways, 1. innocent and meek 2. toughed and independent 3. naive yet extremely smart in some way be it a subject matter, or some variation of these characteristics and men are usually 1. strong and silent, 2. domineering, 3. jaded and slow to trust others, the men usually have all these characteristics to me. Even in Dara Joy's Ritual of Proof, where the roles are totally reversed. You still see some of these characteristics assigned to the sexes. But that's just my point of view.
1/11/2007 #1
I agree. It was really bothering me that it seems as if only a certain type of woman is accepted in today's romantic readers' society (and possibly society itself). This is why I created this forum. The same goes for men, too. Even though almost all romantic heroines support women's rights and compete and win against the male love interests, I feel that there are still separate and primeval expectations for women and men, especially in the case of virtue. Whenever "s***" are mentioned in fics or novels, it repulses me because almost every romantic hero (and even male side characters) are male versions of the s*** everyone despises within the work. I wish the woman would be "redeemed" for once and not the man. I am guilty as an author of giving my female protagonist meek traits, but it is more a story of her process of learning how to find and assert herself than it is about her process of educating her love-interest in learning how to find and assert himself. I'm not sure if I'm achieving this, but I would hate if I'm confirming that in order to love and be loved you need to fit a certain stereotype.
1/11/2007 #2
Juni Lyn
I agree it's hard not to make your characters cliche, I tried my hardest but sometimes it happens.
1/12/2007 #3
I hate when characters are cliche. I admit for romance my plots are usually a tad cliched(but I add my unique spin hah) but as far as I know my characters aren't. Even if some of their, the characters attributes are overused people should add something so they seem more three dimensional. Flat characters destroy stories. Although I admit, while I have plenty of varying males in my stories I find it hard to not just go the easy route and make the herione's love interest, a cliched badass(although I do throw in certain quirks). But I always stop myself. I think its easier to make more original females if you are a female, but males its different. Although I'm not sure why. Maybe because subconciously its what the writer wants for herself? Or maybe at least for myself, the male characters are just less imporant because its the narrators story and journey. So my inner feminist rears its ugly head and makes the male "hero" a plot device. Fully three dimensional plot devices. Sorry don't want to come off as a hypocrite.
1/13/2007 #4
Juni Lyn
I think one way to combat cliche characters is a good character development. I usually try to add personality traits I find in people I know. But at the same time I don't try to overload the characters with all sorts of different kinds of personalities. I do find it easier to make my females different and more developed. While I have to work harder to make my males unique. I agree I think it might have something to do with making the male character, especially the main one, sort of a dream guy for yourself.
1/14/2007 #5
Onion Ring
Speaking as a male... horribly offended you guys put down my sex. :( I try to mix up all of my characters to ave unique personalities, and I think I do achieve it. Well in my earlier works, I worked with clichés a bit because I was a novice, but with my recent works, I believe all of my characters are out of the box. You just need to base them off people you know, seen, or yourself. That's what I do. Someone can't accuse you of your characters being flat if you know a kid just like that down the street... haha
1/26/2007 #6
Juni Lyn
Sorry wasn't trying to down your sex...just he contrary, I think guys are very complicated which should come through in writtings. I agree with modeling your characters after real people.
1/26/2007 #7
[q]1. innocent and meek 2. toughed and independent 3. naive yet extremely smart in some way be it a subject matter, or some variation of these characteristics and men are usually 1. strong and silent, 2. domineering, 3. jaded and slow to trust others[/q] I think those will always be the base of every character…its what little quirks, traits and situations that you add onto the building blocks that make your characters and their roles different from the rest. For example most subdivisions houses tend to be built the with the same foundation/make- its what’s placed inside and how the outside is kept that makes each one of those houses different.
2/4/2007 #8
[q]1. innocent and meek 2. toughed and independent 3. naive yet extremely smart in some way be it a subject matter, or some variation of these characteristics and men are usually 1. strong and silent, 2. domineering, 3. jaded and slow to trust others[/q] I think those will always be the base of every character…its what little quirks, traits and situations that you add onto the building blocks that make your characters and their roles different from the rest. For example most subdivisions houses tend to be built the with the same foundation/make- its what’s placed inside and how the outside is kept that makes each one of those houses different.
2/4/2007 #9
Limited Edition
[q]I think those will always be the base of every character…its what little quirks, traits and situations that you add onto the building blocks that make your characters and their roles different from the rest. For example most subdivisions houses tend to be built the with the same foundation/make- its what’s placed inside and how the outside is kept that makes each one of those houses different.[/q] I disagree. Characters (SHOULD) have traits of the writer themselves in them, in my opinion. At least if they're finely made. i think the trick is to not think of your characters as characters, but as people. They're people, they're not a guy or a girl, they're not a web of characteristics, just as you and me aren't, they're complex figures who have been shaped by their lives. This type of thinking of mine makes all my characters rather androgynyous. The good thing: they seldom fit into stereotypes (although they might fit into cathegories, but who the heck doesn't). The bad thing: they might come off sounding like their opposite gender (no matter their gender). But i don't know many real people who actually always sound like a girl or always sound like a guy. For me, it's the looks that tell me that. People mistake even myself as a male over the net. I do see those sterotypes mentioned often though, and many more. It makes me question: why the heck are they even writing the story when they have nothing to say? Characters make the story. It's their story that's being told. Unfortunately it's not like the type of character just happens to fit the story and the story is based on them and their experiences. Rather, it's a writer who wants to tell this (cliché) story and well, cliché stories have cliché characters.
2/27/2007 #10
Juni Lyn
[q]Rather, it's a writer who wants to tell this (cliché) story and well, cliché stories have cliché characters.[/q] So true, when you get right down to it, all stories have some kind of cliche to them...but (and I think I've said it before but...) it's the characters that make it unique.
2/27/2007 #11
Personally, I'm just sick of the "damsel in distress" s***. But clichés can be fun to play with... Usually, the best thing to do is mix up their characteristics - after all, most of us can be weak and times and strong at others. People forget that they stereotype their characters, and that just because a character is weak doesn't mean he or she can't have strong moments, too.
3/25/2007 #12
Serom Kim
Although I don't read romance books that much, and personally it's not my choice of genre, even I know about the overused stereotypes in fiction. I have read one book that can be clearly defined as a romance novel, and, well, I liked it a lot at first. But when I went back and read it, I picked up on some parts where it seemed like the male character was kind of controlling the female character in a way. After a while, I was thinking why it had to be that way. Romance novels are the stories where the stereotypes about men and women are the strongest. Stereotypes of women are that they are emotional, dependent, and crumble when their man isn't around. Stereotypes of men are that they are tough guys, independent, and they sleep around with various women and stuff. These stereotypes show the most in romance stories more than any other genre. Reasons for this may be because of society. In our society, despite all the advancements made for women and men, media tends to romanticize the tough guy and the woman who will stand by her man and do what he wants her to do. And don't even get me started on the physical looks of those two. My point is that the only way we can get the cliched stories to stop is if the new generation of writers make it so. For example, the next story I'll write will be one on the romance section, and I really don't think it'll be a typical romance story. Just keep an eye out for it. That story will be up once my current, Hurricane Wind, with no stereotypes whatsoever, is finished.
3/25/2007 #13
I will have been a member of fictionpress for 6 years next month, and when I first started writing, I swore never to write romance stories because I felt that if I did, the characters would sound clichéd and therefore unoriginal. Then I changed my mind and focused on the "Jane Eyre" type of girl/woman - plain appearance, but strong character and spirited stance. I have recently decided to make the female protagonist Indian. I think ethnicity and gender work together in a lot of ways. I am originally Indian and people often make assumptions about me based only on my appearance; and then they actually seem disappointed when they realise that I don't correspond to their notions of the "typical" Indian girl/woman. It may be a good idea to furnish the heroine with a male friend who does NOT turn into a lover in the end. I mean, is there only one kind of relationship between men and women? And does it always have to be men and women? It is good to see that gay fiction is on the rise over here. Of course, since we are in the Romance category, the heroine has to fall in love. But she can fall in love and at the same have a best friend with whom she doesn't have to hook up in the end. Anyway: the friend can sometimes comment on the heroine's strong and weak points from time to time, that way it's not always the (omniscient) narrator who is operating directly (if the story is written in third person). "The damsel in distress" is indeed very annoying. I guess everyone has to be "rescued" now and then to a lesser or greater degree, whether female or male, but it is usually so dramatic and overdone. Maybe it is also a good idea to write in the first person singular. It may therefore depend on the perspective from which the story is being told whether the content comes across as stereotypical or not. Another thing, as Krirobe pointed out, is the "girl is a s***" but "guy is a cool hero" pattern. That is something which is also really irritating. And finally, there is a topic which I have often thought about: women and work. Nowadays, it's like: it is so difficult for women to choose between work and kids/family, or to juggle both. It's like one assumes that it is only the woman who faces this problem and, in fact, HAS to face this issue. It seems to be an issue only for women. What about for men? And then there is the definition of the term "work" itself. Are you a working woman? Women who slog at home cleaning, cooking, washing etc. for the whole family are not considered as "working" women because they don't get paid with money. There is a lot of sexism in there as well. It just goes to show what a cliché "men are the strong sex" is. Doing the housework acquires strength and endurance which would earn a woman Olympic gold medal. On the other hand, if there are clichés for women, there are also quite a few about men, so that's another tricky thing. In the end it is really difficult to write a story without a single cliché/assumption in it. I learnt that one has to be critical about one's own stories. Looking back at my own stuff, there are spots where I wince and think that the girl has come off as too emotional or something...I think it really helps looking at one's own stories after a while. Have you had a similar experience?
3/26/2007 #14
Serom Kim
Ranee, I agree with you. Especially on the non-romantic male best friend issue. Ladies, think of it this way. Do you want to fall in love with your opposite-gender best friend? I certainly wouldn't! It'd be too awkward. And besides, best friends who start dating almost never work out. I think that everything is overdone, personally. After years and years of literature, it's hard to find anything that's original. But we manage, don't we? I know one thing that's not overused, but I'm not telling anyone, because I want that idea for myself. And as for the ethnicity issue, I'm an Asian American (Korean American, to be specific) and I find it easier to write about ethnic characters. Of course, it's hard to not just write about some racist U.S. person (sorry, guys, but I find the general population of the U.S. to be stupid to ethnic concerns and the rest of the world) who misjudges an ethnic person, but I manage not to. I do put some instances where people are a bit racist to others, but as long as I don't make it excessive, I think it's fine. Especially since I still see it around. It'd be easier if there weren't all these stereotypes about men or women, since then people wouldn't see a male character as acting too feminine or vice versa. But it's something that we'd have to live it. I'd actually like to see a story where it's not a girl wronged by a boy, but the other way around because it does happen. Males aren't always the bad people, you know. Girls can be just as shallow and stuff.
3/28/2007 #15
Sally Can Wait
Girls will be girls, and boys will be boys. What I mean, really, is that characters are often so cliche because it's frickin' HARD to write unique, quirky, different individuals and still find a way to make them relatable to the rest of the world. Because the truth is, people don't want to read something they can't relate to, if only in some small way. It goes against instinct. They always start out as too meek or too tough or too naive because people ARE that way. But it's hard to add quirks to this unless you've had actual expirience with those quirks. Write what you know, and draw what you see, you know. It's just really, really hard, I'm not gonna lie. And since everyone on this site is an ameteur, well, it's no wonder there are so few stories that offer such great insight. I think the trick is to study the unique habits of a person and project them into a character, to start out with. If you don't see how real people act, then of course all of the fictional people are going to end up sounding the same. Most people on this site come from fairly similar backgrounds (and before you protest, remember that you are on a computer. Do you even realize how expensive that is?). The hard part is finding the things that make people, even people that seem to be the EPITOME of a cliche stand out. Little, tiny details make SO much difference, it's the same for painting. What is the thing you remember best about a person? The way he ignores people when they disagree with him. The way she only goes for the 'bad boys' because she's afraid to date anyone except those she thinks are "beneath" her, because then she might have to face rejection. Even though she doesn't know it. When it comes down to it, I think the trick to great writing of great characters is being completely and one hundred percent HONEST. No excuses. Even if you think its something completely embarassing. Because those are the things that really get to people--the things that are left unsaid that hover in the back of their minds waiting to be confirmed by someone else before they'll let themselves believe it. Take Ned Vizzin's "Be More Chill." Perfect example. I am such a hypocrite. :D Well, not really. I never said I actually did any of those things. They're just what work for other people. kthnx. Loves, Sally Can Wait.
3/29/2007 #16
Serom Kim
Yeah, I guess you're right. A lot of my characters are based on real people, actually. My friends that I hang out with, that's why everyone acts like they're drug-addicts. My friends and I are really that insane ... Anyway, as for your argument that most people are from fairly similar backgrounds, maybe that's right for the socio-economic part, but as for ethnic backgrounds? No way. Nuh-uh. That part is diverse. So far, of all my stories, Hurricane Wind has been the easiest to write because it's basically stuff thay my friends and I do, except for the fact that we've never had a stalker. Well, you'll see what I mean if you read it. But I do agree with some of your points.
3/29/2007 #17
I totally agree with all that stuff you guys wrote. But then how do you EVER right a story, with out having A BIT of cliché's in it?. If your writing something and you want to keep it real and actually happen, then think, pretty people always want pretty people. You never see that REALLY HOT guy with that over weight, ugly girl.Cause lets face it, even though we live in the 21st century there's still that majority who think high school is the beginning and end to life., so there for if your pretty flaunt it, an if your not just keep your nose in the books. Life is like that. One big friggen cliche, and while it HAS changed drastically, i still see people getting bullied for, sex, race ect. So how are we meant to to write something that doesn't happen in real-life, without it being cliche? What you write about two ugly people getting together? You cant, cause to each other their beautiful. So really your at a loss. I hate reading cliche as much as the next person, but it is nice to once in a while to believe that you have a choice in your imagination, and for once you could end up the good one, not nessiscerily that hot one, but the good one.
4/12/2007 #18
Though I agree that life is one giant cliche - after all, they, like stereotypes, have to come from *somewhere* - it seems as if you're saying you're either pretty and stupid or ugly and smart. It doesn't always work like that. Also, you do get the occasional hot person with the not-so-hot person. We usually call these people just plain crazy but-- could it be, some people like *personality* rather than looks? No-- Wait-- I must be thinking of some other planet. Nevermind.
4/12/2007 #19
hahaha No. i'm that sort of person. I don't care about looks. Trust me if you saw the guy that i've liked you would understand. And the last guy i like (patrick) i liked him for a year and a half, but i didn't like him cause of his looks (mainly cause he has none). But his personality. I know , i know "Just make up your mind already".. bit i don't know. There are A LOT of people who go to my school and are really smart AND BEAUTIFUL. and im so envious of them so badly , cause not only do they have beauty abut brains, and it just proves to show that god DOEA infact give with both hands. So i wasn't trying to say that if your pretty your dumb and if your not just sats developing brain skills. I' just saying when your writing a story, you usually go for the attractive kind. and leave us (actually just less attractive people on the side lines.
4/14/2007 #20
I actually pride myself on writing about plain-looking people. In fact, I'm going to ask you to go read my story "Far From Beautiful" now, as you seem to be on that topic, It.Hurts.I.Know.
4/14/2007 #21
ok so you got me there. But that one guy was hot, was he not??. Which makes ONE of them pretty. And as if something like that would actually happen in real life.But i liked the idea, and it was so sad. And it made me even sadder cause my best-friend is gay.But i already reviewed so you know all that. But to be in reality lets just face it. Pretty people always want pretty people.
4/15/2007 #22
Actually, I've had a lot of pretty people want me, and I'm not particularly pretty. Though I agree that the modern world is majorically very shallow. And Hell, even looking at my parents. My mum's friggin' beautiful and my dad's kinda weird looking.
4/16/2007 #23
Yeah but you might not think your pretty, but the world might. So in that case pretty people(him) will always wan pretty people(you). Sure i know where your coming from, my friend katia is soo beautiful, and smart and the whole perfect package, and any guy would want her. But she doesn't like pretty people she would rather personality. And love her for it. But other then that,if your attractive, expect to be happy. If your not, you could still be happy but you don't have the future pat down. You never know you might end up alone.
4/17/2007 #24
I defy your reasoning that if you are beautiful life is easy. The most beautiful girl I know has had the hardest past I've ever heard of.
4/17/2007 #25
Serom Kim
I agree with Natasha5, being beautiful does not make your life easier. At the most, it may make your life harder because people don't see you for what you could do. They don't care whether you're the best violinist in your school or anything else, they just want you because you're pretty. A less beautiful person has a greater chance of being loved for who he or she is because the other person has to give personality a chance.
4/17/2007 #26
Also, I think *success* in life has little to do with beauty, and mostly just to do with where you're born. If you're an ugly person living in California you can expect success at least to the point where you're getting food on your table three times a day. If you're a beautiful person living in Tanzania, you'd be really bloody lucky to get even that.
4/18/2007 #27
Im not saying that if your beautiful, you have a easy lie. Anyone can have a f*** life, pretty or not. But if your life is f*** up because you keep getting screwed over by boys.Then thats your own fault. Stop wearing your heart on your sleeve and don't be so naive. Im just trying to say that physical attraction is a big part of relationships, every relationship. And if your beautiful, it's going to be easier to be attracted to you. And if your not, there are so many problems that could go wrong. i.e he's embarrassed to introduce you to his friends, or he doesn't want anyone to know that your going out.And i know he shouldn't care what other people think but 1. these are his friends, your cant ditch your friends. and 2.we live in the 21st century, in my opinion the most materialistic century there is. and with materialism, you always want something that people will complement you one, something that shiny and new and pretty. And as to success of life, i think if your happy your successful. And anyone can be happy. Its really as simple as that. When you sad it's cause you want to be. You want to pinpoint everything that is wrong in your life, and sook about it.Whether people are using you for your looks, or because you have none, there is always silver lining.
4/18/2007 #28
Serom Kim
We wre talking about sexism in romance novels, how did it get to this?
4/18/2007 #29
Juni Lyn
I would like to know that as well...I think the topic has been lost.
4/18/2007 #30
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