1. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    How to get through my own double-standard

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Link the Writer, Sep 5, 2015.

    So I just realized something that's possibly very disturbing. When I was writing a fight scene between Mishu and the antagonist (the first meeting they have, she'll kick his ass in the climax), I was actually afraid to show her being injured. To let the bad guy beat the crap out of her. At first I thought it was nothing until I replaced Mishu with a male character and the male got the crap kicked out of him. The whole point is that the main character confronts the villain with little to no preparation. As such, they suffer greatly for it.

    Basically, I have a double-standard about my own fictional characters, specifically my female protagonists. This is not because I think they're weak, it's because I'm afraid (for some odd reason) that I'll be seen as a monster for writing out my female protagonists losing a fight they can't win (or can't win yet in the case of Mishu.)

    This fight scene calls for the antagonist to toy with Mishu before he grabs her by the throat, pins her to the wall and drives his knife deep into her shoulder. He's sadistic, so he's twisting the knife, laughing and mocking at the same time.

    And I'm afraid to do that. The antagonist is sadistic, this is definitely something he'd do. Mishu's a tough person for her age, she can put up a decent fight. Yet I'm afraid because I don't want to look like I'm glorifying violence against women. I don't want to look like a monster. I mean, the gods know George R.R. Martin's books A Song of Ice and Fire had received a lot of flak for the way women are treated in his series. I'm afraid of that happening to me.

    What do you guys think? How can I get over this stupid double-standard I put on myself?
     
  2. Void
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    Void Contributing Member

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    I guess it really depends on whether or not you believe there is any need to get over it. While I do understand (and agree) that female characters should be just as capable of getting the shit kicked out of them as male characters, the concern that people will treat it differently is quiet valid, although perhaps over estimated. Whether or not you have this bias, it will certainly exist in some portion of your readers.
    This really comes down to the all too common dilemma of whether to kowtow for purely pragmatic reasons, although in this case I would question whether or not it's that much of an issue.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2015
  3. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    I would examine the thesis that it is wrong to portray violence against women. I see a lot of criticism against things in pop culture that I think is nothing more than hypersensitivity. Like the new Taylor Swift video, it is said to be romanticizing colonialism because it lacks Africans, while being set in an unpopulated part of Africa. Others criticisms I agree with, like not wearing the feathered headdress of Native America. In Unforgiven, a woman gets her face slashed several times as punishment by a man. Never stopped it from getting awards. To me, your only risk is to be too apologetic in the subtext of your novel.
     
  4. halisme
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    halisme Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just say to yourself "If I wanted to write something supporting the mistreatment of women, wouldn't the guy doing the punching be the protagonist?" If people can't understand that, then they just want something to be offended about.
     
  5. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    It would annoy me a lot more if a writer, especially a male writer, was avoiding putting women into fights or was making their antagonists stupid or weak to avoid the women getting hurt. Is the reader supposed to enjoy Mishu's pain and humiliation as she's defeated? Does she sit in the corner and cry or faint at the sight of a big, strong man with a knife? It doesn't sound like it. So there's no way I would read that and say "ugh, this guy is getting off on the idea of women being hurt by men stronger than them!" or "ugh, this writer thinks women are unable to defend themselves!"

    I'm going to appreciate Mishu as a strong character when she doesn't crumble in the face of pain, and comes back to get her revenge.
     
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  6. General Daedalus
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    General Daedalus Active Member

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    My own novel romanticises the act of womanising, and makes a point of it. My MC often sleeps with women without even learning their name, or if he does it ends at their forename, or some possessive job title in place of an actual identity. I do this for very specific reasons as opposed to just throwing it in, and I think that the violence in your novel has it's own reasons. As long as you can justify what you're doing, I think it's perfectly acceptable.
     
  7. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm not sure how you'd be glorifying violence against women as long as you don't write it like it's cool for the villain to be beating Mishu up.
     
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  8. General Daedalus
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    General Daedalus Active Member

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    There is this as well, from what the OP said, I can't detect it actually glorifying the violence. There are plenty of accounts of women losing fights or worse in books, TV and movies, and it can just be a part of the plot. I say you should just go ahead and include it.
     
  9. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    It's a tough call. I couldn't stomach Mr. and Mrs. Smith ( new version -not the Hitchcock movie ) because I had a hard time watching Mr. Smith kick Mrs. Smith ( even though - notice how they put her behind the couch? ) It was easier to watch him take the beating then her.

    There is a danger of glorifying the abuse of woman - but the fact that you're worried about it, I don't really think you could. Just watch the way you angle the details. No women is going to think of their beautiful breasts hurting just - damn, my breasts feel smashed.

    I wouldn't treat the woman as a man in a fight as that would take away various shadings of feeling and reactions that probably have to be addressed. For instance if I decided to take on a man - always at the back of my mind would be the worry, can I ever really compare in a fight to a man, maybe before I just got lucky with a few wimps? A man wouldn't think that, he would think can I ever beat him?
    You can't totally erase gender and nor should you even want to as it's a ripe way of adding to the conflict.
     
  10. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Thanks for the replies, everyone. I feel a bit better about this (though I'm still going to wince 'cause getting stabbed must hurt like hell). I'm just going to chalk it to the usual over-worry I do about things like this. :D

    @peachalulu - Interesting perspective. Truth be told, she doesn't think about her own gender that much, but she is aware that she is more than likely not going to be beating this guy in a slugging-it-out brawl with bare fists. She'd have to come up with a plan other than brute strength to take the antagonist down. She's also not afraid to fight dirty or cheat if things are going really sour.
     
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  11. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Joe Abercrombie does this kind of thing all the time in his books, and at no point does it ever feel like violence towards women ...except once, when a brother slaps his sister across the face and gives her a black eye. (And that doesn't get glossed over, either. In fact it's rather a turning point for one of the characters.) As long as the women are fighters, however, and willingly entering into battle situations, they're fair game. If the woman is sitting at home minding her own business and says something a man doesn't like and the man hits her ...different thing altogether.
     
  12. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    If I remember correctly, Veronica Roth had a similar situation with her female mc in Divergent (Book 1). And I never thought of it as wrong in any way. If you haven't read it already, maybe it can give you some ideas on how to tackle that situation. Or reassure you that it won't be a problem. Maybe it's also up to the characters reaction afterwards. If she appear as broken and resigned or with the attitude that he hasn't won yet. If she doesn't consider herself a victim, the possibilities are the readers won't either.
     
  13. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I should check that book out. I'm currently reading the second book of The Green Trilogy by Jay Lake where his female protagonist is a very strong woman who gets into lots of fights during the course of her adventure.

    Since Mishu'll get out of that fight more or less thinking, 'Crud, he got me. I'll have to sharpen my skills and be on the look out, but I'll be ready next time. I won't give up.' I think I should be fine. :D
     
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  14. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    My first reaction: What?

    I get beaten up regularly at the boxing gym, sometimes by men, which might explain why I'm less squeamish about this, but really: if you wanted someone like me to enjoy your book, treat your females like they're characters/people, not pawns in a social justice war. If you're uncomfortable making them hurt or showing them get hurt, don't write it, don't write something that's not your thing out of some real or imagined obligation. Your book, your choice. I doubt you'd write mindless torture and violence exclusively towards women to titillate creeps, so you probably don't have a grave problem here.

    I'm not bothered by heroines getting their asses kicked. If they didn't, they'd be very boring and predictable heroines. Furthermore, you don't die from a few knocks and bruises. You shake it off and keep on fighting. As a woman, I don't need to be patronized. But this is just how I feel.
     
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  15. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Link, for what it's worth, I have two scenes of violence against women (well woman - my MC) in my book. I found them both very hard to write and I took that as a sign of a damn good chapter. I want my readers to feel her fear and pain - that's what makes them root for her. And, even worse (!) in both cases she's saved by a man. The fact is, she's five foot two and has no kind of fighting skills, so how is she going to get out of that situation? In the first instance, she uses her brain to secretly call for help without her attacker knowing. In the second she can do absolutely nothing but sit in a room, tied up, and wait to be rescued.

    It's the way she copes with those incidents and reacts to them that make her interesting, not some Buffy-type-kick-ass moves. She's a physically weak person because of the limitations of her body, but still a strong character.

    Your character has the fighting skills as well as the mental strength, by the sound of it, so we're also going to be rooting for her. Make her suffer, I say. Make us hate her attacker and want him to die.
     
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  16. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Oh. you'll be cheering when she delivers the death blow. :twisted: After all he does, she'll be plotting his death at the end. No taking him in for questioning, no last-minute mercy, just killing him. She'll probably stab him in the shoulder for sweet, sweet poetic justice.

    Mishu's the same way, she's not that physically strong, not that big. She ain't exactly Goku from Dragonball Z. :p That said, she's strong mentally and can improvise on any strategy. I think the bolded helps explains why I found it hard. This is basically Mishu at her most vulnerable. She's trying to protect the people she loves from this attacker and she nearly gets killed for it. I too want readers to feel her desperation, her anger, her pain as she's using all the skills she has to beat this guy.

    Thanks. :) The replies have made me feel better about this.
     
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