Sex? Or perhaps I should say Gender?

Do you write as you, what I mean is, your own sex, or is your narrator of the opposite persuasion?

Sometimes seems right to take the opposite viewpoint, but I’m not sure why.

Have just taken a new look at some of my short stories and realised that the viewpoint is from a man in most of my shorts, yet when I write a novel, the viewpoint is usually from a woman.

So my question, as a woman, is why? And I have no idea of the answer.

Do I find the man’s point of view more interesting in the short term, but impossible to sustain over a full length novel? Possibly. Or is this just a quirk and if I write long enough, then the stats will even themselves out?

It isn’t as if I have written a series of novels based on one person, a detective say, the Sherlock Holmes type, so they all have to be from one point of view. Or that I write in one genre only, though I am biased towards crime. So what is that about?

But apparently most books have been written from the point of view of a man, so perhaps if I want to be published, that’s what I should be doing. And the internet seems to bear this out, because I Googled this and guess what? It has a name. Androcentism.

Which according to Wikipedia (Greek, andro-, “man, male”) is the practice, conscious or otherwise, of placing male human beings or the masculine point of view at the center of one’s view of the world and its culture and history. The related adjective is androcentric, while the practice of placing the feminine point of view at the center is gynocentrism. 

Charlotte Perkins Gilman suggested in her book of 1911 that this was the status quo and she began a lively debate on the subject. I shall not proceed to quote vast tracts of Wiki – if you are interested you can look them up (and if you are like me, then one thing will lead to another and you will happily waste half a day trawling from one site to next), but it is interesting and slightly weird that in these days of social and gender equality, the perspective most writers choose to write from is still that of the white male.

Though a few Man Booker prize winners appear to dispel this theory, the statistics seem to show that we have not moved on very far in a hundred years.

So – in order to be published must I try to sustain the male point of view for an entire novel, or are things changing? And should writers be pushing that change?

Or should I – as I suspect – dismiss this as yet another pile of drivel dug up in an attempt to research my way out of actually doing the writing I sat down to do, and just get on with it.

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8 responses to “Sex? Or perhaps I should say Gender?

  1. Great blog post! This is a very important topic indeed — as a feminist and as an author who actively works to incorporate feminist issues into my writing, I find that I write from a variety of perspectives: male, female, females who wish they were male, gay males, gay females, straight, seemingly asexual, etc. This helps me, I believe, not only remain sharp as an author in the construction of unique characters but also helps diversify my plots and stories generally.

    And, actually, there has been a recent trend in publishing that shows major publishers are preferring books with female protagonists (at least, this is what my literary agent pal has been saying). Beyond this, in recent years, scores of indie publishers have arisen that focus on LGBTQ and feminist writing — I think things are changing, but slowly. And I believe this slowness is actually due in large part to the writers. After all, how many major authors out there are still using stock characters like the male hero rescuing the damsel in distress? … Exactly.

  2. I hope your literary agent pal is right and things are changing.
    Writers have traditionally pushed the boundaries of the world they live in, many suffering for their cause.
    It does seem strange that when the majority of readers are women, male protagonists still dominate.
    And strange for me to discover that often when I write for a woman’s magazine, I take the man’s viewpoint, which I think I have only ever done once in a novel.
    I will certainly give this more thought in the future.
    Thank you for reply.

  3. Now, about perspective I think that the Point of View and/or voice just finds it way. Was worried at some point when it looked like it was mainly me talking. Had to let it flow at some point. Many of the masculinity underwent some surgery and it went well.
    You know, this had some scholarly touch to it too. Was fun reading it. It would help if you can drop links to some of the literary pieces (the personal write-ups) that you mentioned.
    Wow! You sure are a writer. Best wishes Pat!

    • Thank you Su’eddie.
      By links, do you mean the Wiki links or my links. If you click on the blue bits in the piece you should go through to my sources. If you’d like my links, have now posted some as separate pages.
      Best wishes to you too and thanks again!

      • Yup, eventually got to see some and was particularly impressed by the fairy tale. Wow! You do have that ink flowing side by side with your blood. Nice nice nice. Like I mentioned, there were a few issues with the pov particularly the flowery language and descriptions! You would always find a lady’s trait 🙂

  4. Really interesting. Thanks for writing this, it has made me think as I have a habit of doing both too. Do you think it’s more difficult for a man to write from a female perspective? I had this discussion with a male friend as he seemed to keep getting stuck in the whole area of sexuality/gender rather than seeing the woman as a person first and foremost. Certainly seems less unusual for a woman to write as a man, I think.

    • Think you’re right: more usual for woman to write as a man and lots more do these days.
      Used to know but have lost touch with a guy who wrote successfully for women’s mags and he always wrote from female perspective, using a pen name so no one would know he was a man. Don’t know why.
      Used to be thought that the protagonist in magazine story needed to be female, but that is not so any more.
      Maybe the lines really are being blurred now.
      Certainly about time.
      Thank you for reading and for your comment.

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