CAN SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME HOW TO WRITE WOMEN?
Hey, you, woman! I’m a male writer! I don’t really know how to write women. Can you give me some hints? You see, I’m not sure I got the dialect right. I just don’t know how women talk. I don’t know their language. Give it a look, will you?
If this last paragraph sounds reasonable to you, you really better read on. You are in need of some serious help – especially if you are a male writer who writes female characters (even if only once). How do you write a woman? How do you make the woman sound authentic? How do you get the dialect right?
Or, perhaps, a better question might be – WTF? Why do you think women have a different dialect? Yes, you heard that right. I have heard writers worry that they haven’t gotten the female dialect right. They don’t know the language a woman speaks, so they need help. I’ve got news for you. Women speak whatever language is the local language of the area where they live. Wow. Odd, huh? Who would have thought it?
One of the worst questions you can ask a writer during a book talk, a talk back after a play, or any other time (at least, any time that I am around, since most writers seem to take this question in stride and think it is legitimate and has a legitimate answer) is “How do you write women so well? Why is it one of the worst? Because, to begin with, it’s stupid. Yes, I know your teachers and your mother told you there is no such thing as a stupid question, but they were trying to make you feel good. Because of course there is, and this one, while not being the pinnacle, is very high on the list of stupid questions.
Second, because it is extremely sexist, and most the people I hear ask it pride themselves on being liberal and feminist. So why, if they are feminist, and if they assume that women are people, do they assume that one must have some special decoder ring to write women? But not men? Because, you see, this question rarely goes in reverse, with women being asked, “Oh, but how do you write men so well? How do you get the dialect right?”
If you think about that, what is it saying? It is saying that writing men is natural. It happens. Men are the default, they are the people, and women are the oddity. They are the ones who are “different”, who need special decoder rings, because they just aren’t quite…right, you know. They have their own “language”. They have their own “dialect”. They are from, like, Venus, you know? Men from Mars? No, sorry, both men and women evolved together right here on Earth, same species, same language, same everything (yes, everything – brains, too, in spite of some poorly conducted, breathlessly reported stories in the science news that pretend otherwise)…except for a couple of rather important reproductive structures that do delineate males from females.
So, let me give you a hint. When you want to write a woman, and you’re wondering how to make her believable, just do this: write a person. That’s the secret to getting women right.