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  • Jerry Rabushka

Women in Literature

(Originally posted 2017)

one thing a writer tries to do (or not, in some cases) is to write well-rounded characters. But that means sometimes they don't sit well with other folks reading that character. The question is this: is the character "badly written" or just that you're unhappy with the portrayal? Do you think this is a portrayal of ALL women, when it's meant to be a portrayal of just one?



Many men have a problem with writing women, and vice versa. I've been on both ends of this, I've been praised and burned for my female characters. I wrote a play called Cowboy Logic which went on in 2001, and many of the women in the audience said the female characters were masterfully written. I didn't ask, they just said as much. A review of my book The Prophecy says the two women in the book are NOT well written because they're petty and whiny and all kinds of things, plus one character's love for a man is questioned... (there are four major female characters, did she miss the other two?...)



Seeking Asylum has been lambasted for Renee, who constantly fights against having to play a support character in a male dominated script (but she's not always the nicest, either). I would say Renee is lonely and acts out of that, and in order to fight that loneliness she sometimes hurts other people.



It's kind of this, I think, to repeat...is the portrayal wrong (stereotypical), or just something you don't like... the women in The Prophecy have the power in the book; the queen rules an empire the point of the book is she has to stamp out a new religion to save her country according to... a prophecy! So in order to keep that power and stave off annihilation, they do some stuff that's cruel, and as a result of that power, they do some stuff that's selfish. Like men do. Some folks loved Queen Jayde for her sarcastic sense of humor as the world crashed around her (largely her responsibility), some didn't.



One of my favorite things to study in history is women in power, because it was so rare, and because they either had, it seems, all the power as Queen, or none of it, or very little, as someone's wife. I wonder why some Queens didn't appoint women to other state offices, but probably it wasn't allowed, and they had enough trouble keeping the throne as it was.



Arielle is Star Bryan's sister in my book conveniently named Star Bryan, and she's often the most popular character there, or close to it. She doesn't take no shit, more or less... and has an interesting way of dealing with things.



I did write a novel at age 19 and upon reflection, the women are horribly portrayed. I do wonder looking back if it's because my male characters were "in the closet" and should have been "out," so the female characters were stuck with a bunch of closeted men. I dunno. Maybe I just needed to grow. I want to just toss the book, but I don't have the heart. I might anyway.



The editor at Brooklyn Publishers said I can really "get into the mind of a teenage girl" and I don't know if that's good or not! But when you write plays for schools, you need to put in a lot of girls, and they tell you not to just make them all secondary characters. So I have written some strong female characters, Naomi in Z-Town, Sadie in For a Pair of Prom Shoes, for example.


I think though too many people make the mistake of thinking that if a writer writes a woman a particular way he is saying Cosi Fan Tutte, so at they all... or any other minority, ethnicity, etc. If you're going to expect to be portrayed realistically, sometimes that means you won't come out on top. For what it's worth Xena seems to be a great example if strong women in literature (or whatever you call Xena, if not that)


In a lot of literature the men DO and the women REACT, so having some more powerful female characters, whether they are "good" or "bad" can't hurt.



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