Just in case we needed proof that men know nothing, here it is
Good writers know that the best writing comes from the experiences you’ve actually lived. If you haven’t experienced something, you just aren’t going to write as well about it. That goes for characters, too. Writer Gwen C. Katz was reading a Twitter thread about how important it is to hear about the experiences of marginalized people from the actual people who have lived those experiences, when she came across a male author claiming he could write a book from a woman’s perspective.
Spoiler alert: He could not. Katz shared a quote from the first page of his book to illustrate her point.
A male author is insisting that he is living proof that it's possible for a male author to write an authentic female protagonist.— Gwen C. Katz (@gwenckatz) March 30, 2018
Here's a quote from his first page. pic.twitter.com/f6d5bN2EHq
“I sauntered over, certain he noticed me,” the excerpt read. “I’m hard to miss, I’d like to think – a little tall (but not too tall), a nice set of curves if I do say so myself, pants so impossibly tight that if I had had a credit card in my back pocket you could read the expiration date. The rest of my outfit wasn’t that remarkable, just a few old things I had lying around. You know how it is.”
Yes, all women will confirm that that is exactly what our inner monologue sounds like at all times.
While most women were busy rolling their eyes at Katz’s tweet, Whitney Reynolds, who hosts a podcast called I Haven’t Seen That, saw it and proposed we all play a little game.
new twitter challenge: describe yourself like a male author would— A Noodle Purist (@whitneyarner) April 1, 2018
And oh, the responses. They are poignant and they are wonderful and they are true. And they mostly refer to women as basically walking sets of boobs and ass, because of course.
I had big honking teeters, just enormous bosoms, and I thought about them constantly as I walked down the street, using my legs (thick, with big shapely calves), but never not thinking about my enormo honkers, https://t.co/UaCQBchchL— Talia Lavin (@chick_in_kiev) April 1, 2018
Her undersized bosom did not suggest the surprise that on the other side of her was a sizable ass. He began to think of her body a a mullet. She was business in the front and a party in the back. https://t.co/H2OdY77Pmb— Sarah Watson (@SarahWatson42) April 2, 2018
Others alluded to the fact that there might be personalities behind the boobs and asses, but that we don’t care about that, obviously.
She was beautiful, inside and out, even with her flaws, which were few and endearing. After all, if I cared to notice anything deeper about her and consider her a dimensional human being my obsessive fantasy of her might be shattered.— Cami Ragaglia (@Cami_Rags) April 1, 2018
Her breasts were like two scoops of vanilla ice cream covering the maze of her inside parts. She had a face too, he thought, but it kept speaking. https://t.co/8mXEzrYHQA— Shannon Coulter (@shannoncoulter) April 2, 2018
She had a butt like two buttery brioche rolls and presumably an inner world and job of some kind. https://t.co/kvipWdTRhg— Jennifer Wright (@JenAshleyWright) April 2, 2018
Sometimes women had legs in addition to their boobs and asses.
She slid her legs into skintight jeans, the better to flaunt their leg-like shape, and strode down a corridor, walking on her legs, which were long. Wow, she thought, my legs are so long. Her breasts jounced their agreement. https://t.co/gOlZkSmK5u— Samantha Shannon (@say_shannon) April 3, 2018
Other times, they weren’t pretty enough to be immediately noticed, because we all love that trope.
She was pretty but the kind of pretty where you have to get to know her to see it. https://t.co/IJV0EBKY4w— Danielle Separtridge in a pear tree (@ellesep) April 2, 2018
Some of the replies focused on how women of color tend to be described, playing into racial stereotypes and using some downright baffling food references.
As she moved her strong cocoa body gleamed as if calling to the country of Africa. Her chocolate waist moved like an alluring siren calling me to crash on the rocks of her brown buttocks. https://t.co/eY08cAprM1— Kelechi Okafor (@kelechnekoff) April 2, 2018
something abt porcelain skin because Asian, something about petite and submissive because Asian, something about silky raven Asian hair, something about exotic and something about almond shaped eyes because Asian— marie 💌 林梅方 (@PuccaNoodles) April 1, 2018
Her china porcelain doll-like skin was sprinkled with freckles, like grains of rice. She often drew her black eyeliner long, like a geisha, as if to further stretch & accentuate her almond shaped slits for eyes. “hey,” she said, the sound for calling upon & honoring her ancesto https://t.co/1sABW07Kqn— egg fart (@east__infection) April 3, 2018
Others were about how women who don’t fit conventional beauty standards are disregarded.
As round as she was loud, she immediately filled the room. My first thought was that I didnt want to fuck her. My second thought was even more disturbing, she didnt seem to care. She contemplated the roundness of her own boobs and contributed something to the meeting. I missed it https://t.co/1uTe0cKCaE— Ashley Nicole Black (@ashleyn1cole) April 2, 2018
Even Shannon Purser, who plays Barb on Stranger Things, weighed in, writing about how her shape isn’t the one that’s societally coveted by men, and so she would be described that way.
She had a nice face, I guess, but she was fatter than I usually like in a woman. It didn’t stop me from staring at her ass, though. Not much in the cleavage department either. When I asked her to come back to my place, she said no. Must be a lesbian. https://t.co/TBNkWV5CbL— Shannon Purser (@shannonpurser) April 3, 2018
As the responses got more and more tongue-in-cheek, mansplaining even made an appearance in the thread.
"She referenced a universally-supported legal concept in a political discussion, but due to the nature of her gender, I felt compelled to ensure she understood the concept she was referencing, and I did so by rephrasing, in a corrective tone, what she literally just said." https://t.co/l2Bj3T2IzF— Charlotte Clymer🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) April 1, 2018
The most depressing part of all of this is that even though these responses are clearly exaggerated, they’re not even that far off from the real thing. So hey, male authors, maybe start treating women as actual people and not just objects crafted to fit your own unattainable standards. And writers, stick to your own experiences. We can all do better, and make literature more safe and inclusive for everyone.