I might have a bit of an issue with the masculine-archy at the moment. Struggling to put some comments in perspective.
Him: Well, we love the writing and the concept. It’s a big concept – but it needs more male characters to balance it out.
Me: *paused for confusion* I’m confused. There’s almost an even split between male and female characters. I didn’t plan it that way, a 50/50 split just sort of happened. So you’re saying there needs to be more male than female characters?
Him: Er. Well. To give it balance. All the big parts, the main parts are female…
*Pardon me while I laugh quietly to myself over unintended joke about females having bigger parts*
(So if I’m understanding this right, it’s not a balanced story unless there are more men than women…)
(Also – Liam. I’m pretty sure Liam would be a little irritated about his being so easily dismissed.)
Would someone please just tell me I’m not getting picked up because I’M A REALLY SHITTY WRITER? Just say it. I can take it. Tell me I can’t construct a character arc, or that my plot is flabby or that my language is drab. Tell me I’m inarticulate and that my ideas are stupid. I can go back to the drawing board on all those things. I can take classes, read books, practice craft to get better. But these rejections that are directly related to: my female name, my female first person perspective, my female characters. (To be fair one rejection was for pacing. I can totally fix that.) (One company looking for strong female leads said “not that strong” when I sent in my proposal. What’s embarrassing about that is book one is the bottom of the arc for the female lead, I think she’s weak and whiny in the first book – because she needs a lot of growing room through the series. If she’s too strong now…. Alas.)
The more I encounter this scenario, even from female agents, the deeper I dig in. Then it’s my fault for not getting taken seriously. It’s my fault for not compromising and doing a re-write from a masculine point of view, or adopting a pen name that’s gender neutral.
I play by the rule that if a scenario keeps repeating itself, and I’m the only common denominator – I must be the problem. Ergo – I’m not getting picked up by publishers and producers because of something I’m doing or not doing along the lines of the female protagonist, female name, female character perspective/voice, female/male character ratios.
I’m so at a loss right now, and it makes me more stubborn, more angry, more ready to do it my own way.
If it’s a flaw in the writing, or the story – I can get behind an overhaul. Tell me the story doesn’t work because it’s out of balance in the roles of the sexes because A-B-C and I might understand what you mean and be able to think of a solution for everyone that STILL KEEPS THE INTEGRITY OF THE STORY.
Most of all I hate what this all implies about men. I love men. I ADORE men. Men are fabulous. But when the gatekeepers (even some female gatekeepers) are suggesting men won’t/can’t/don’t read female voices – that accusation is damaging to men. I know a lot of dudes who are omnivorous, gender-neutral readers. I have a large male readership of my own who are not the least bit intimidated by strong female characters (with big parts).
The perpetual implication that fiction, literature or entertainment needs to be male-skewed in order for it to be palatable for men is harmful to the entire industry and culture as a whole. Let men be men, don’t “fluff” for them so they can feel good about the reading material available. They’re strong dudes, they can take a little feminism and they will be just fine. In fact, they may even thank you for it so they don’t have to tone down their own strength. They can just be.
And because I prefer to think there’s some flaw in my little writing corner of the world rather than a larger broken picture about the culture and industry I’m writing for – I would much rather hear that it’s my writing that’s the problem. The plot, the concept, the language etc.
Because for some reason, I can wrap my brain around that.
While I’ve been done submitting officially. I’ve been inspired every couple of weeks by an article or a clip and I submit to a new company or agent that pops up. I haven’t had a lot of steam for it because every rejection for this particular cause, just reminds me why I’m launching my own house.
I am all about finding some balance. For sure. But I intend to rock on with my female characters, AND my male characters and tell some fun stories. I am equally in favor of feminine and masculine roles.
But I am not in favor of the “archy” of either, and sometimes getting back to a true balance means a bit of over-correcting.
I’m curious – truly. I would love to hear from both men and women on this issue. How do you feel about it? Are you a writer and do you run into this at all? Are you a reader and do you notice this at all?
Basically, I’m trying to find out if I’m floating around in my own private Twilight Zone. Thank you for weighing in!