I don’t like women as much as men.
I don’t like that the above statement is true, especially being a woman myself. I’m not particularly masculine. I’ve come to quite enjoy making myself look pretty. I don’t wear skirts often, but I love an excuse to wear a fancy dress. I like mountain climbing and martial arts just as much as I like reading. I don’t enjoy romances, but I love shirtless men in tv shows.
Yet, the problem persists. Particularly when it comes to enjoying characters in stories. These days, I’m blessed with many fantastic women friends, but my trend of preferring male characters continues.
I’m not entirely sure what causes it. I’d like to say it’s simply a matter of sub-par writing. Take, for example, a show often lauded for its writing: Firefly. There’s not a single character I dislike in that show (dislike as a character, since there are many dastardly villains I love to hate), including all of the women. Mal is still my favorite character, but I love Kaylee to bits, and I want to cosplay Zoe one day, skin color be damned.
It would certainly be arrogant to say that, though, wouldn’t it? Because I have an intense dislike for otherwise beloved characters, such as Rose from the first two seasons of the return of Doctor Who. I despise her with a fiery passion, and refuse to watch the story “Father’s Day,” where every decision she makes is the wrong one that leads directly to the screwing up of everything, including the Doctor’s death, and only her father making smart decisions saves everything. I hate that she got what any fangirl who falls in love with the Doctor could want–a guaranteed future with him for the rest of her life–and she said it wasn’t good enough.
My theory is that I have higher standards for women characters. If a woman is portrayed as a useless screamer, crouching in a corner wetting herself while the men–or even other women, really–save the day, I automatically hate her. If a woman needlessly has half of her skin showing in wildly impractical ways during fights, I automatically hate her. (I say “needlessly” for a reason. If there is a function for the skin showing–such as using it as a highly effective distraction against her male opponents, then I applaud her instead of hate.) If a woman’s only existence seems to be to spread her legs for anyone she can convince to stick a hand up there, I automatically hate her. (“Only” is in that sentence for a reason. I’m not slut-shaming here. But she needs more than one reason for existence.)
In contrast, if a man is portrayed as a useless screamer, I love it. Mostly because when a show wants a screamer, they automatically reach for women 9 times out of 10. (For proof: watch Supernatural. How many times, if the body is discovered by a woman, does she scream? How many times, if the body is discovered by a man, does he scream? They’re not remotely proportional.) If a man needlessly has half of his skin showing, I scoff at the impracticality while enjoying the view. Because most of the time, he started out with his clothing intact, at least, while the woman specifically dressed for partial nudity.
However, if a man’s only existence seems to be to get his pants around his ankles as often as possible, I automatically hate him. Because, I’ll say it again, people need more than one reason for existence. The sad fact is, though, that I can think of far more characters that have this trait as a part of their character, and not the core of their character, that are men than women. I still love those men; Tony Stark, Dean Winchester, and Zelos Wilder come to mind. But at this moment, I’m having trouble thinking of women examples at all. Black Cat qualifies, but she’s often a villain. Faith from Buffy, another villain. While the men examples are all heroes (though that could be argued in Zelos’ case).
So, there’s something wrong there.
I thoroughly rejoice when I meet a woman character I can fall for, even better if they’re my favorite character, over a man, because that’s incredibly rare for me. In the video game Tales of Zestiria, my favorite character is Rose over the main male hero. In Doctor Who, I almost love River Song more than the Doctor himself, and she is my all-time favorite companion, though Jaime from the Second Doctor’s reign has a special place in my heart, too. (Over the plethora of female companions, since most companions in the show are female, and I despise at least half of them. Over the course of the entire show, not just since 2005, mind.)
I don’t know the reason for it, really. I hate that it’s true. I feel like I’m hating on my own gender just by my fictional character preferences, but it’s not a conscious decision. For the longest time, in my own writing, I could only write two types of women well: masculine women or annoying women. (Annoying in the sense that they’re meant to be that way, and it serves a specific function for them to be annoying.) But I couldn’t write a likable woman unless she was a tomboy for most of my life.
That’s why I specifically made my main character in my projects lately into women. To prove to myself that I could do it. To improve my ability to write good, women characters because we desperately need more of them. And as a woman author, my women should be well written if for nothing else than to honor my own gender instead of further stomp on it. I do that enough just by liking men characters more.