Young adult author Gwen C. Katz recently tweeted about how disappointed she was to read through a Twitter thread trashing “SJW’s” promoting the #OwnVoices hashtag— one which advocates the need for marginalized literary characters to be written by authors who share this same identity.
To highlight the delusion those against the movement (read: able-bodied cis white dudes) are under, one man appeared on the thread to argue the movement was unnecessary and that he— a male who so expertly and believably captured the female spirit— is evidence of that. He wrote,
I think writers should be able to write from any perspective as long as they can pull it off. It takes research, skill, and creativity, but if a good writer can’t do those things, he/she isn’t a good writer, right?
My book is a first person POV and the MC is a woman. I’m definitely not a woman. But it works because I was able to pull it off. I reject someone saying I couldn’t write a female MC because I’m a male because, well, I just did. It’s called writing.
Katz shared an excerpt from the first page of his book. The work speaks for itself.
A male author is insisting that he is living proof that it’s possible for a male author to write an authentic female protagonist.
Here’s a quote from his first page. pic.twitter.com/f6d5bN2EHq
— Gwen C. Katz (@gwenckatz) March 30, 2018
She then shared additional passages, which, lest we forget, he offers as evidence of his skill:
“I could only imagine the thoughts that were running through his head. Naughty thoughts,” and “I could imagine what he saw in me. Pale skin, red lips like I had just devoured a cherry popsicle covered in gloss, two violet eyes like Elizabeth Taylor’s.” Check out Katz’ entire thread and keep in mind all these quotes are pulled from the first chapter alone.
Writer and podcaster Whit Reynolds turned Katz’ initial thread into a game, encouraging women on Twitter to describe themselves the way a male author would. The responses are really, really good.
new twitter challenge: describe yourself like a male author would
— Whitney Reynolds (@whitneyarner) April 1, 2018
There were plenty of responses making fun of men’s obsession with BOOBS and BUTTS and HIPS. In doing so, some truly wonderful pieces of writing emerged.
I had big honking teeters, just enormous bosoms, and I thought about them constantly as I walked down the street, using my legs (thick, with big shapely calves), but never not thinking about my enormo honkers, https://t.co/UaCQBchchL
— Talia Lavin (@chick_in_kiev) April 1, 2018
Her breasts were large enough to inspire thoughts of lust, but had the comforting appeal of a beloved nanny or nurse. Her hips & bum told a different story- wild nights in dancehalls; swaying in callipygian glory.
— YourFavBlackAuntie (@greendoondoon) April 1, 2018
There was not much to say about her face, comely in a pastoral sort of way, but oh her breasts were the work of Rabelaisian demons: gargantuan in their bounty and bounce.
— MycrofeteHolmes (@MycrofeteHolmes) April 1, 2018
She had ham hocks for arms. She looked as if she could tear appendages off if improperly inspired. I only peeked surreptitiously at her reflection like one might spy on a gorgon. Pretty but intimidating she made my testicles shrink at the thought of direct conversation.
— Gabrielle-illuminati High Priestess (@Minervasbard) April 1, 2018
She appeared annoyed. Maybe she was having her period, which occurred monthly. Her untanned legs stuck out from her skirt like legs. Her breasts on her chest bulged. She often laughed. But WHY? It was… inexplicable.
— wynwyn (@_wyn_wyn) April 1, 2018
Her lack of one breast due to cancer rendered her impossible to lust after, but she could get quite flirty after a few ales which rendered her attractive to a diminishing few
— Catherine Dean (@cathjdean) April 1, 2018
She was taller than I expected. Angrier too. Too much of both for my taste but it didn’t matter, all she really wanted me to notice was how her button down shirt was barely containing her breasts, and so I did.
— maura quint (@behindyourback) April 2, 2018
She had not read my novel. She’d never read Infinite Jest. She rolled her eyes out at my name dropping Knausgaard. Though her breasts swell with promise under her cardigan, my boner died a quiet, resentful death.
— soffara (@soffara8) April 1, 2018
The sick, sad, underlying joke here being that women who are not conventionally beautiful in every way are not worth noticing or having around.
Trying to think of a good way to describe either “I did not notice her “or “we made brief eye contact and she scared me”
— Mara “Get Rid of the Nazis” Wilson (@MaraWilson) April 1, 2018
She had wide eyes that seemed to take in the world like she was waiting for an explanation, petite and fragile, with a short crop of dark hair and bright purple lips. She hummed to herself with her headphones in and he decided to take a chance and ask what she was listening to.
— miss shelly the dragon wrangler (@ShellyOneida) April 1, 2018
(Note to men: do not bother women who have headphones on.)
She had a mane of dark curls and an ass shaped by a loving god, but the faint lines around her eyes and the bourbon in her hand spoke of complication and baggage beyond his abilities. His attention shifted past her to the 25-year-old blonde two seats down.
— yet another Sarah (@solidbee) April 1, 2018
She was beautiful, inside and out, even with her flaws, which were few and endearing. After all, if I cared to notice anything deeper about her and consider her a dimensional human being my obsessive fantasy of her might be shattered.
— Cami Ragaglia (@Cami_Rags) April 1, 2018
Her manly form must have led to romantic disappointment, because she had short hair and didn’t even try to appear sexy. She interrupted my discourse on due process like she was an attorney or something. I mean, I read an article, I think I’d know what I was talking about.
— Amoeba (@amoeba_b) April 1, 2018
Women of colored tweeted about the inevitable fetishization of their race in many male-written works.
She smiled, but I could see the sadness in her exotic almond-shaped eyes. Her scarf was made of light cotton, but the weight of oppression that came with it kept her head bowed in submission. I dreamed about ripping it off, letting her dark hair tumble free over her booby breasts https://t.co/gV4J3rfwXy
— Hanna Alkaf (@yesitshanna) April 1, 2018
[insert something about being mixed race and how that makes me petite and inherently submissive but juxtapose it with the idea of me being adorably aggressive and will stand up for myself. But make it sound endearing. ]
— Lilly Beth Chung (@LillyBethChungx) April 1, 2018
I wrote that I feel like if I did this challenge, it’d probably be all breasts and almond-shaped eyes in the same paragraph
— Amanda Wong (@amandawtwong) April 1, 2018
something abt porcelain skin because Asian, something about petite and submissive because Asian, something about silky raven Asian hair, something about exotic and something about almond shaped eyes because Asian
— Marie Lum 林 (@PuccaNoodles) April 1, 2018
She was petite, exotic. Definitely Asian, but full Asian? What kind of Asian? I decided to approach her
— melody (@emmkayeff) April 1, 2018
Hahaha oh my god, men must always find out what type of Asian. Must spend a long conversation discussing your country of origin so that he can tell you he went there once for a week and everybody was so *nice*.
— Jo ? (@WAYWRDesign) April 2, 2018
Despite her round face, the only thing sitting higher than her breasts were her cheek bones. Eastern European, no doubt. He approached her.
“Where are you from?”
He smirked, and asked the question that would surely endear him to her forever.
“No. Before that.”
— Vanessa Salkova ????? (@thetsarina) April 1, 2018
As she moved her strong cocoa body gleamed as if calling to the country of Africa. Her chocolate waist moved like an alluring siren calling me to crash on the rocks of her brown buttocks. https://t.co/eY08cAprM1
— Kelechi Okafor (@kelechnekoff) April 2, 2018
More telling was the amount of women (a lot) who pointed out that their age/weight/profession/disability would immediately disqualify them from being written about positively by a male writer— if they were mentioned at all.
No male author has ever written an attractive fat woman in her twenties who loves life so I wouldn’t even know where to start tbh. https://t.co/sCgNL6pCG1
— Bert (@bethanyrutter) April 2, 2018
Over 50 and invisible.
— GFlynny (@gflynny17) April 1, 2018
She was visibly disabled, so the writer dismissed her without a second thought
— Laura Gregory (@laurabgregory) April 1, 2018
There’s no way to know precisely when she gave up. Perhaps after having two kids she assumed her husband would stay no matter how much she ate.
— MrsMoosegoose (@MrsMoosegoose) April 1, 2018
She was over fifty and didn’t give the author a boner, so he skipped any description.
— spuffyduds (@spuffyduds) April 1, 2018
When I looked at her I saw a woman who had once been beautiful. I could tell by gazing into her eyes that she, too, mourned for her lost youth and the promise her beauty afforded her. It makes sad to see an older woman. They’ve nothing left.
— (((Lisa Solod))) (@lisasolod) April 1, 2018
Carolyn was old. Not sure how old, doesn’t matter, too old for the likes of me. And fat. Wore glasses. No makeup. It’s like she gave up trying to be attractive for men. Or women. Whichever. I’m not sexist.
She may have won a Nobel in her day, but she sure was nothing to look at.
— LJ Breedlove (@LJBreedlove) April 1, 2018
If she ‘looked after herself a bit more’ & got a hairstyle & ‘stopped hiding herself behind that hair’ she would be stunning. She ‘must be a size 10’ & would have loads of men after her if she would ‘relax and have fun’. Great company if she ‘stop digging’, get ‘back to normal’
— Em Do (@Emma_niDhulaing) April 1, 2018
Let’s be realistic, as a middle-aged woman in tech, no male author would describe me, ever.
— Kathleen (@PeaceLoveUnix) April 1, 2018
Over 200 lbs and therefore invisible, despite the giganto-boobs.
— Mx. Simone Jester ??? Your Heathen Friend (@simonejester) April 2, 2018
She caught my eye in a peripheral sort of way; just enough that I noticed her form in the background. Upon inspection, her tight frown and standoffish demeanor invited me to skate my eyes away from her in discomfort. Moments later, she was completely erased from my memory.
— Alicia Mestre (@aliciamestre) April 1, 2018
“She walked toward me with the confidence of how atteactive she probably was fifteen years ago.”
— Donna Lynne Champlin (@DLChamplin) April 2, 2018
Probability those who refuse to see the validity in these threads will not have gotten to the bottom of this post, but it seems worth noting the final tweet in Katz’ thread. She doesn’t say men cannot write earnest, multi-faceted female characters— she merely points out the egomaniacal hypocrisy in discounting marginalized voices.
Personally, I think men can absolutely write realistic female narrators.
But if you dismiss out of hand the value of personal experience by proclaiming that your writing proves it isn’t necessary, then you haven’t done it.
— Gwen C. Katz (@gwenckatz) March 30, 2018