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Old 05-27-2012, 08:21 AM   #1
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Does this bug anyone else?

Some time ago, I was talking to someone I knew. I mentioned a certain shounen ai manga with a character who's rather emotional, and she said, "Oh, that? I wasn't impressed with that, the main character seemed like a girl with a cock."

I see this every so often: a male character who's judged by readers to be too emotional or weak is referred to as a "girl with a cock" (or some variation of that) as a put-down. Not only does this reinforce tired old stereotypes about women always being emotional, but it implies that being emotional is a bad thing and it's especially bad if you're male.

What really confused me is that the person who said this is someone very aware of GLBT issues and gender issues. This was a long time ago so I'm not sure why I was thinking about this or felt the need to bring it up now, but it bothers me that this mentality persists even among people who you'd think would be more enlightened than that.

Has anyone else run into this?
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Old 05-27-2012, 10:37 AM   #2
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Yeah, I've ran into it. I know that it's a bad thing if the character just sulks the entire time but it seems like if a guy shows any emotion other than anger, then he's considered to be an emo by some people.
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Old 05-27-2012, 12:04 PM   #3
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I don't like that turn of phrase at all.

But I've seen a lot of male characters portrayed in an over emotional way that I didn't find interesting and was a major turn off for me. It's probably just a personal taste thing.
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Old 05-27-2012, 12:30 PM   #4
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Urgh, that attitude drives me crazy with it's sexist implications. It's fine if the character likes other dudes, but god forbid he not act like proper man while he's doing it. Because of course the worse thing for a man to be is like a woman.

On the one hand, it's true that the effeminate gay man is something of a stereotype, but on the other hand, there certainly are men, gay and straight, who are effeminate or possess traits associated more with women, and they deserve to be represented in fiction too, and not as a punchline.

I have a male character I'm working on who would be considered extremely effeminate by most cultural standards, and I just know I'm going to get crap from people about how I should "just make him a girl". Demons are one thing, but men who defy gender norms?! That just kills my suspension of disbelief.
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Old 05-27-2012, 02:44 PM   #5
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*twitch* You know, I think I'd be completely happy if i never heard this turn of phrase ever again. It would be one thing if a character were simply emotional in order to advance the plot. That, I could see getting upset over. But this is just offensive.
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Old 05-27-2012, 06:33 PM   #6
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Ugh. Even if being extra emotional were that much of a bad thing, why can't they just say he's a wuss or a whiny little piss ant or something? It shouldn't be a gender issue.
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Old 05-27-2012, 09:41 PM   #7
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Yeah, exactly.

I get that some people are just annoyed by highly emotional characters. That's a different thing. But connecting it to femininity and implying that it's somehow worse because the character is male and he's supposed to "act like a man"...that's what bothers me.
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Old 05-27-2012, 10:47 PM   #8
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I HATE that saying, with extra undying hate. Oh, and its variant "chicks with dicks". It's offensive on two levels. First, it implies that behaving in a feminine manor is inferior to behaving in a masculine one. Second, it implies that all females are emotional. I'm one of the least emotional people I know, so I guess that makes me a dude with a vagina?

It's definitely not a saying reserved for GLBT people/characters either, though I agree you'd think people who were aware of GLBT issues would know better.

I will admit that I worry more about getting accused of stereotyping my emotional gay male characters than my straight male characters with similar personalities. In the end, though, making a character do everything in the opposite way of the stereotypes is just as false as making them perfectly match the stereotype.
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Old 05-27-2012, 11:17 PM   #9
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It's virulently transphobic. Ugh.

I wrote a blog post about it here:
Why “Chicks with Dicks” is a Hateful Phrase
http://embracetherainbow.com/2012/03...violetta-vane/
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Old 05-28-2012, 01:47 AM   #10
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Yes. That annoys the hell out of me. What an asshole. It's got something to offend men, women, and everyone in between.

ETA: Oh, and to answer your second question--yes, I've run into that attitude before. Although the incident that sticks out wasn't fiction-related. I was talking to this guy about music and the band HIM came up--one of Rhoda's personal faves, although I don't listen to them as much now as I once did. Anyway, he said something along the lines of, "Yeah, they used to be badass, but now all they play is girly music." Rhoda's response: "Dude. You realize you are, in fact, talking to a GIRL right now? We're done here."

It's not quite the same thing you're talking about, I don't think, but still good old-fashioned gender stereotyping.
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Old 05-28-2012, 02:04 AM   #11
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It's virulently transphobic. Ugh.

I wrote a blog post about it here:
Why “Chicks with Dicks” is a Hateful Phrase
http://embracetherainbow.com/2012/03...violetta-vane/
Interesting post. I never really looked at the phrase from that perspective (I always just focused on the misogyny inherent in it). Now I see that it's actually offensive in at least three different ways.
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Old 05-28-2012, 03:01 AM   #12
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Oh, and another point:

I think we all know that gruff, aggressive, emotionally cold female characters do not get this kind of reaction. Sure, there might be a few comments about her lack of proper femininity, but I'm betting that most would gush about what a 'strong female character' she is.
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Old 05-28-2012, 03:11 AM   #13
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I've heard men referred to as 'pussies' 'bitches' 'girls', this is because not that being emotional is a bad thing, but being a woman is a bad thing. If you are a man and show emotion, you must be a woman. And being a a woman is bad because of course the worse thing for a man to be a is a woman (most insults are gendered and women-centric).

And 'wuss' comes from 'pussy-wussy' and is a gendered slur.

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Oh, and another point:

I think we all know that gruff, aggressive, emotionally cold female characters do not get this kind of reaction. Sure, there might be a few comments about her lack of proper femininity, but I'm betting that most would gush about what a 'strong female character' she is.
That is a whole 'nother issue though. Women who possess those traits are usually called 'bitches' 'unmotherly' or 'unwomanly'. Women can be strong in many ways, if it's emotionally cold like Bones or extremely feminine whatever, life experience is what makes a character. Male characters who possess those traits though are usually fawned over by popular social media and praised as well rounded, good characters (House M.D. is one I can think off the top of my head) and not shamed like those female characters for not being lady-like or and usually described as man-eating harpies and evil witches for not being what they think women should be.

Which what they usually mean when they say 'lady-like' (another term I hate) is demure, quiet, obedient, docile, emotional, submissive, completely feminine; wearing dresses, high heels etc.

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Old 05-28-2012, 05:07 AM   #14
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That is a whole 'nother issue though. Women who possess those traits are usually called 'bitches' 'unmotherly' or 'unwomanly'. Women can be strong in many ways, if it's emotionally cold like Bones or extremely feminine whatever, life experience is what makes a character. Male characters who possess those traits though are usually fawned over by popular social media and praised as well rounded, good characters (House M.D. is one I can think off the top of my head) and not shamed like those female characters for not being lady-like or and usually described as man-eating harpies and evil witches for not being what they think women should be.

Which what they usually mean when they say 'lady-like' (another term I hate) is demure, quiet, obedient, docile, emotional, submissive, completely feminine; wearing dresses, high heels etc.
While this does happen, I've seen a lot more overt prejudice towards men displaying "feminine" traits than women displaying "masculine" traits. This goes for both book characters and real people. No doubt it's because our society still considers masculine=good and feminine=bad, so women displaying masculine traits are trying to be like the "better" gender, while men displaying feminine traits are letting themselves behave like inferiors.

It's all a bunch of sick, prejudiced bullshit, of course. I just think feminine men get an even harder time of it than masculine women, at least in our culture.
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Old 05-28-2012, 05:15 AM   #15
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Male characters who possess those traits though are usually fawned over by popular social media and praised as well rounded, good characters (House M.D. is one I can think off the top of my head) and not shamed like those female characters for not being lady-like or and usually described as man-eating harpies and evil witches for not being what they think women should be.
I both agree and disagree with this. On one hand, there are a lot more tough, snarky, dominant female characters now than there used to be. Think Anita Blake (back in the series' hey-day, I mean...it's devolved into something totally different now.) Actually, in the urban fantasy genre it seems like it's now the norm for women to be tough and kick-ass and know how to handle a gun, and people get annoyed with characters who act more traditionally feminine.

On the other hand, I wonder...COULD a female character get away with acting exactly like House? Or are there some boundaries that female characters are still expected not to cross? It's an interesting question. I do suspect House would have more haters if he was female, but I could be wrong.

To Hamilton's point, I do agree that (in general) "masculine" females are judged more favorably than "feminine" males. People are generally tolerant toward tomboys and even find them cute, but if a boy is a "sissy," he's met with harsh judgment and disgust. It goes back to that old perception that masculinity is good and femininity is bad...which is the whole crux of that phrase and why it's offensive.

Edit: Heh. I was posting at the same time as Chasing and I ended up repeating a lot of it unintentionally, so...yeah, what she said.
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Old 05-28-2012, 05:35 AM   #16
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While this does happen, I've seen a lot more overt prejudice towards men displaying "feminine" traits than women displaying "masculine" traits. This goes for both book characters and real people. No doubt it's because our society still considers masculine=good and feminine=bad, so women displaying masculine traits are trying to be like the "better" gender, while men displaying feminine traits are letting themselves behave like inferiors.

It's all a bunch of sick, prejudiced bullshit, of course. I just think feminine men get an even harder time of it than masculine women, at least in our culture.

I would suggest this: Look at the media coverage of Laura Bush and compare it to the coverage of Hillary Clinton. I disagree pretty strongly with the assertion that aggressive, emotionally cold female characters don't get "this kind of reaction." They absolutely do, and I think that's why these characters tend not to be leading characters but are instead the butt of jokes or are used as stereotypes.
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Old 05-28-2012, 05:38 AM   #17
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I just think feminine men get an even harder time of it than masculine women, at least in our culture.
Well, shoot, look at how entrenched it is.

I just think emotionally aware men get an even harder time of it than assertive women, at least in our culture.


We don't even have gender neutral language, really. We have to create it.
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Old 05-28-2012, 05:46 AM   #18
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I would suggest this: Look at the media coverage of Laura Bush and compare it to the coverage of Hillary Clinton. I disagree pretty strongly with the assertion that aggressive, emotionally cold female characters don't get "this kind of reaction." They absolutely do, and I think that's why these characters tend not to be leading characters but are instead the butt of jokes or are used as stereotypes.
Well, compare the amount of hate directed at Hilary Clinton to the amount directed at national-level male politicians who act as feminine as she does masculine. Oh, wait, you can't, because there aren't any . . .

My point wasn't that it's easy for women with a lot of masculine traits. It's not. My point was that it's EVEN HARDER for men with feminine traits.

There's no better example than what Otter posted about the difference between the meaning of "tom-boy" and "sissy".
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Old 05-28-2012, 05:49 AM   #19
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Well, shoot, look at how entrenched it is.

I just think emotionally aware men get an even harder time of it than assertive women, at least in our culture.


We don't even have gender neutral language, really. We have to create it.
True. For the sake of simplicity, I've been using the words "feminine" and "masculine" as they're typically used in American society. Having to list all the traits each word encompasses under our cultural bias is just too cumbersome. It's a lot more complex than emotional awareness and assertiveness, after all. Maybe we need to make up new gender-neutral words.
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Old 05-28-2012, 07:49 AM   #20
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I don't have an answer, honestly, though I do think keeping the distinction between gender and sex would help.

Mostly what I have are a lot of questions. And the more I think about gender, the more questions I have.
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Old 05-28-2012, 12:15 PM   #21
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Oh, and another point:

I think we all know that gruff, aggressive, emotionally cold female characters do not get this kind of reaction. Sure, there might be a few comments about her lack of proper femininity, but I'm betting that most would gush about what a 'strong female character' she is.
I was thinking this same thing when I read the original post last night. I would definitely be guilty of it.
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Old 05-29-2012, 06:58 AM   #22
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I was thinking this same thing when I read the original post last night. I would definitely be guilty of it.
I don't think there's anything wrong with appreciating a female character with masculine traits. In fact I'd like to see more that don't have those traits of theirs stop the moment it threatens to make them too manly.

This also makes me think of how sometimes female characters are vaporized for rejecting femininity in all kinds of fiction, with 'girly girls' existing to make her look better by comparison. "Susan wasn't like the other frivolous girls, who were catty, hysterical, and stupid. She didn't care about dresses or sewing. Instead she wore pants and learned to fight with a sword and was therefore superior to all of them."
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Old 05-29-2012, 07:16 AM   #23
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I don't think there's anything wrong with appreciating a female character with masculine traits. In fact I'd like to see more that don't have those traits of theirs stop the moment it threatens to make them too manly.
Again, surely we can be more specific? How many of these traits are biologically determined? How many are socio-culturally imposed? How many are related to deliberate choice?

I work in technology; is that a "masculine" trait?
I have long hair; it that a "feminine" trait?
I am assertive; is that a "masculine" trait?

People, gender, and sex are not binaries. Let's not act as if they are. It encourages unhelpful stereotypes to perpetuate.
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Old 05-29-2012, 08:14 AM   #24
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Again, surely we can be more specific? How many of these traits are biologically determined? How many are socio-culturally imposed? How many are related to deliberate choice?

I work in technology; is that a "masculine" trait?
I have long hair; it that a "feminine" trait?
I am assertive; is that a "masculine" trait?

People, gender, and sex are not binaries. Let's not act as if they are. It encourages unhelpful stereotypes to perpetuate.
The problem is that there IS no specific definition of masculinity or femininity. It's extremely subjective. I don't think there's any single set of traits that everyone would agree to be masculine or feminine.

Most people have some personal sense of what those words mean, but like Chasing mentioned earlier, trying to list out all the specific traits associated with your own particular concept of "feminine" or "masculine" every time you use the word is incredibly cumbersome, to the point where it would make talking about the issues impossible. So, it comes down to a choice between using the language somewhat vaguely and ditching that language altogether.

And really, it might be better not to think in gendered terms at all and instead just look at people's individual attributes, but that's not the reality we're living in. Masculinity and femininity are hugely influential concepts in our culture, despite being so vague.

Gender is such a weird thing.
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Old 05-29-2012, 08:57 AM   #25
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Location: An meodoheall monig dreama full
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Medievalist is so great that we've run out of appropriate complimentsMedievalist is so great that we've run out of appropriate complimentsMedievalist is so great that we've run out of appropriate complimentsMedievalist is so great that we've run out of appropriate complimentsMedievalist is so great that we've run out of appropriate complimentsMedievalist is so great that we've run out of appropriate complimentsMedievalist is so great that we've run out of appropriate complimentsMedievalist is so great that we've run out of appropriate complimentsMedievalist is so great that we've run out of appropriate complimentsMedievalist is so great that we've run out of appropriate complimentsMedievalist is so great that we've run out of appropriate compliments
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Otter View Post
And really, it might be better not to think in gendered terms at all and instead just look at people's individual attributes, but that's not the reality we're living in.
That's my point. We're writers; we can do better. We don't have to label the behaviors; merely describe them.

What readers do is their business.
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