Gender “Misfits”…

Lots has been written about gender: erstwhile but more socially acceptable tomboys of the past, gender change, gender stereotypes, gender fluidity, and the debate over unisex/gender neutral bathrooms and the like in more recent times. So, I’m not going to dive into that here…there is plenty of great (and not-so-great) ideas flying around the internet and in magazines/books for you to peruse.

It’s 2016, and I’m continually astounded by the continuation of gender stereotypes, both in the world at large, and what’s been ingrained in myself, by society/upbringing, and which comes out from time to time, unfortunately. Which I work hard to evolve past.

I have to keep this vague, here, for a specific reason, but I was reading this great article in a magazine about a topic I was really into, until they started describing colour schemes and defined said colours by the use of gender stereotypes. I was so frickin’ pissed off–I felt like some guy had just pissed all over the magazine as a way to mark his territory. I mean, seriously, defining decor and decorative elements as masculine or feminine?!?! (Yes, they really used “masculine”.) C’mon, people. What were you thinking? This is what I, as an editor, call the “danger zone” in writing.

Propagating gender stereotypes/narrow gender roles in language, when you have time to write, examine, and rewrite? Shouldn’t editors and writers pay closer attention to using gender-neutral terms in writing? To cultivating a more modern approach when it comes to gender to reflect a more contemporary society? I know I’ve called out manuscripts and their writers when it comes to referring to cops as “he” and “him” when they have not been identified as male, female, or other. Sadly, I was probably ignored when I made those notes for that manuscript. But I shouldn’t have been–it’s off-putting to read such sexist assumptions. And I believe that writers can’t afford to alienate their audiences.

A real-life example: Not too long ago,  I was at a book convention for mystery/suspense/spy novels, and this author actually came up to me and started ranting about how all the people who liked his spy novel were women and how he couldn’t understand why that was. “Where are all the men,” he bemoaned, as if expecting some sympathy for his lone-male plight–because, of course, I was female, after all, and supposed to be the nurturer. (Little did he know that he was talking to the Chaos Fairy/ass-kicker. ‘Nuff said.)

(It’s probably old news that women read more of those types of books than men do, statistically. So, congratulations, on offending your substantial reader base, other male-gender-identified authors who might hold the same view.)

By the way, the suggested use of gender neutral pronouns is nothing new (see this New York Times article) …so, if you, as a writer, view cops as only men, your manuscript also appears archaic among other, more contemporary 21st-century books.

I presented my note professionally, and backed it up with a plethora of examples and rules but you betcha that I was pretty steamed that the conclusion was made that only men could be police officers, as exemplified by how it was written. If I had been just a reader, I would have put the book down, right then and there, especially with all the other editorial issues.

But, part of being a writer is making mistakes…that’s why we have editors. I know that almost every comment that I’ve made for other writers, I’ve made myself, in  writing my own manuscripts (*head bap*).

But, please, listen to us editors. We aren’t haters put on the planet to make writers’ lives hell. Our comments may be hard to read, painful even, but we do it because we care–because we see how great your book can be, with changes like this to the writing. And, your book can go from being loved by friends or family to loved (and read) by all. Or to a larger portion of readers out there, anyway, whatever unique gender blend they are.

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Author: The Chaos Realm

Copy Editor/Proofreader, Historian, Freelance Writer, Virtual Assistant.

3 thoughts on “Gender “Misfits”…”

  1. Yknow before I started university last year, I didn’t know much about gender (discrimination/stereotypes/etc). We weren’t brought awareness of how badly it does contribute to society. But now, that I have been influenced in university, I see a whole new world. There are a lot of gender issues I am aware of than I use to be and so many I have found others and I, myself, perpetuating these gender stereotypes. I don’t do it intentionally. Sometimes sexist (well if rated probably a 2/10 sexist) joke may slip out of my mouth. Ads on the wall, chatter I listen to on the train back home. I hear it, gender roles etc. And, honestly, it’s much infuriating.

    I, personally, feel that this “gender issue” will persist no matter how much people try explaining rationally and calmly. There are too many ignorant people out there that would not listen. Their minds aren’t ready to accept and not broad enough for gender neutral identities. I have an example of my aunt, who called my boyfriend out for being a sissy and feminine because he bought some facial products I recommended that weren’t out of the “men” section. I, annoying, snorted back telling her there’s no such thing as a women’s face cleanser. It’s just a cleanser. ANYBODY could use it.

    And that’s just one example. Another is when my committee and I (of the baking society in my school) were discussing a theme for a cupcake decorating competition. I suggested making the theme floral as I thought Yknow it would probably be the easiest thing to do, piping some grass and flowers for possibly very beginner pipers. My president immediately said “um, I think we should think of the males participants too… I don’t think they’d want to do flowers. That’s too girly”. And I was so infuriated!! Apparently, they only talk about gender issues in the Arts and Education (which I am in). I ranted to my group of friends about it; seriously, they’re just cupcakes! Who cares if someone were to pipe flowers on it?? Would the “guys” want to pipe hammers and cars instead, would that be better?? Omg I’m so annoyed right now thinking about it. If you think about it, would a guy really care if there were flowers on his cupcakes? What if some guys like flowers? UGH.

    Rant over. I just think there should be a mandatory “gender issues” class for everyone anywhere in the world. It just opened my eyes and made me realise things I haven’t noticed before.

    1. Thank you for the thoughtful comments. I appreciate you taking the time out to weigh in with such a great commentary…I loved the cupcake story. I mean, even on a Cupcake Wars episode they had to make such a big deal over the fact that the one male baker was the only guy surrounded by a bunch of women bakers…call him out and give him kudos and things for being the only guy there that day. It was weird and awkward.

      It’s so weird that people are so hung up on gender distinction…such as in the case of your boyfriend’s choice of facial products. It’s all just marketing anyway…

      I mean, I even get similar comments from the store staffers when I buy my favorite Herban Cowboy deodorants–Wild or Forest scents.

      Last note: One of the most memorable men I knew was this wonderfully sensitive poet (I still have his poem “Shards” that he wrote–in my scrapbook) and we went to see Titanic together one time. From the opening notes of the theme song, tears were pouring out of him like a flood. I always remember that, because his sensitivity and ability to express emotion stood out in a sea of misogynistic, aggro men that I knew at that time.

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