Does Gender Matter?

On one of the forums I frequent, a writer posed the question: do you give your characters a gender first, or develop their traits and personality first?

I have to assume that the poster was male. Because a woman knows, gender is everything. Gender is everything in our self-perception and how others see us.

I am a woman. The advertisements, TV shows, movies, news stories, and photographs I view tell me who I am supposed to be. I am to be pretty, first and foremost, because an ugly or fat girl is worth nothing. I am to be pretty, but not care that I am pretty. I am never to use my prettiness to my advantage, to get men to buy me drinks or offer me promotions. I am to buy all the things that might make be prettier: hair dye, heels, diet pills, designer dresses.

I am not a person with thoughts as feelings. I am a thing to be looked at. Not a woman with agency, but a doll who plays dress up. And, no matter where I go, no matter what job I accept, I always know, in the back of my mind, that men size me up and decide if I am worthy of fucking.

Because, as a woman, my primary role is to be young and hot. Not just pretty, but sexy. Fuckable.

Because, as a woman, I am defined by my ovaries. I am a wife. Or a mother. I am female first, person second.

Because, as a woman, I always wonder: why is this guy being nice to me? Is he friendly or does he expect something more?

Because, as a woman, every time I go out, I have to worry: will someone attack, me just because I am a woman and my sexuality is something to take? Will an acquaintance decide he has had enough of my rejection and force me to say yes?

Because, as a woman, I am supposed to be chaste. I am not to have one night stands or short flings. I am to save myself for Prince Charming, to save my precious flower for him to pluck. I am not to have needs. I am not to like sex, or worse, want it. Sex is a gift I only bestow to men who have paid enough, nagged enough, put in enough time pretending to be my friend.

Because, as a woman, even if I manage to rise above my inferior brain and achieve success , I will have an asterisk next to my name. I am a successful woman, not a successful person. Journalists will write articles about me, implying I am a lucky anomaly, claiming that women in my field are finally climbing the ladders. Finally, I am someone with buzz. And people talk about me. About how impressive it is that a woman rose to success. 

And I will smile, with pearly white teeth. Because, as a woman, I am to be happy. I am not to wonder about my lot in life. I can vote, dammit, isn’t that enough?

Does gender matter?

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4 thoughts on “Does Gender Matter?

  1. Pingback: Karaoke Hostess | fionafire

  2. Just curious, but do you see race and ethnicity the same way?

    For people who are not white in America, race is everything. It colors everything. Creates a lens over everything. And people view them, pigeonhole them, and treat them differently (or try really, really hard not to treat them differently, thereby treating them differently) on account of their non-white race.

    Or do you not focus on this issue because it doesn’t affect you? Are all your characters in your screenplays and novel white by default?

    • Absolutely, race matters. Though, I think gender is a bigger divider than race.

      I’m writing a script now with a really slutty character. People will react differently to her if she’s white than if she’s Asian or black or hispanic. But they will react even more differently to her if she’s a guy.

      In this case, I’m not concerned with naming the race of the characters because I plan to produce it myself, and I plan on seeing actors of all races for all the parts.

      In my last feature, two of the characters’ races really affected their worldview and goals.

      I am considering changing the race of one of the love interests in my novel, but I don’t want to get into all the, ahem, dick size stereotype baggage that comes with it.

      • “Though, I think gender is a bigger divider than race.”

        That’s an interesting comment. I’ve heard different opinions on that, depending on whom you ask. Most white women I know always say gender is the bigger dividing issue. Most minorities I know say it is race, including black females and Latina females. I’d say Asian females are split on the issue. And I’d say most white guys would say it is race that is the bigger dividing issue, at least in America.

        One’s personal experiences should never be discounted, though, and the one common thing I take from the opinion split is that it is very difficult to see things from another person’s shoes. So the best we can do usually is to try to empathize, even if we can’t fully understand.

        Looking forward to the future blog updates on dick size, lol. 😜🍆

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