Updated: Dec 11, 2021
Hello Covers! Today’s blog is going to be a special one, as it will feature a post made by one of our fellow poets, Chris Scott. Chris recently posted the following thread on our forum, and I thought the discussion deserved an entire blog dedicated to it. So without further ado, here is Chris’ post followed by my own thoughts. I am looking forward to reading all of your thoughts in the comments!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chris’ Original Post
"I really want to start a discussion over this topic. I think it is quite important for men like myself.
I want to start this discussion with a fact about me. I have been writing from a woman's perspective for a long time now. It has come down to being the only way I write most of the time. I have been thinking on why I do. To confess, I flip the perspectives because I find it easier to talk about myself as if I were another person. I have created a character, a woman, in which I relate to. Poetry is a new found love of mine and I have been through a lot of character development the past three years that I think plays a big part in this. Also going to state that almost all who have inspired me, took care of me, and taught me things about life have been women- growing up with 3 sisters and a single mother.
Is there any advice on men writing women or from their Perspective? There is a lot of advice on the internet about cliches in novels, but what about poetry? There is not one video over this. I want to speak on women issues in which I have seen and been apart of through out my life. I stand with women whole heartedly and I can't help but write about what i see and the struggles. I want to create this character that goes through all the levels that I understand. Of course without speaking of ones I do not. Not only would I love some advice, but for Women Covers to express how they feel of this topic. What do most authors miss about a woman's life? What are some do's and don't-s? I really want to dig deep on this!"
Read the original post, and follow the discussion here: LINK
What a thought provoking post. I think it’s really cool how Chris writes from the perspective of a character he created. People often forget that poetry can include fiction and does not have to be autobiographical. I sort of find myself relating to this, because while I have never tried writing from the perspective of a fictional character completely, some of my writing is heavily inspired by male poets, and I often find myself trying to strike a balance between masculinity and femininity in my writing. I was also recently thinking about writing a love poem from a man’s perspective, so great timing regarding this post.
As for the dos and don’ts of writing women, I’m a bit conflicted regarding the premise of this question. On one hand, I very firmly believe that gatekeeping who can write what kind of character and in what way, is wrong, and I don’t believe one must belong to a category of people in order to write from their perspective. At the same time, when a person makes their work public, it becomes fair game to criticism, and criticizing sexist, racist, transphobic, etc. tropes can be an invaluable tool for social progress. In other words, a badly written character may be ‘cringey’, but can have utility in terms of acting as a sort of litmus test for where society stands on certain issues.
When it comes to writing women, I don’t think that there is a straight answer anyone could give, because there’s no such thing as a singular authentic female experience. The experiences of women are just as nuanced as those of men, and I think the key to writing any character is to acknowledge this, and to make sure you are only writing from the perspective of that individual character, rather than using them as a stand-in for all members of their respected group. Even a quick google search will provide you with no shortage of contradictory information on the subject (ie. sexy female characters are empowering vs sexy female characters are objectifying). In my opinion, the idea that a female character must be “empowering” is sexist to begin with, but with that being said, there is enough room in the world for people to find empowerment in any type of character they like.
Chris writes, “I flip the perspectives because I find it easier to talk about myself as if I were another person. I have created a character, a woman, in which I relate to.” This line struck me as particularly insightful, as it incidentally sheds light on an important question when it comes to writing - how much of an author lies in the characters they create? According to Chris, though he is writing from the perspective of a fictional woman, the character is still largely himself. If this is the case, then I would advise Chris to pay less attention to the fact his character is a woman, and more attention to explaining his own thoughts and feelings that he is channeling through her. After all, good art has a tendency to transcend demographic attributes, and has the ability to connect at least in a small way, to anyone who stumbles across it.
Though I mentioned earlier I don’t think there are any objective answers to Chris’ question, I of course still have personal opinions on what a well- written female character looks like in poetry, for which I have provided a list.
She has flaws, and not just cute or endearing ones.
Her thoughts and actions contain nuance, depth, even contradictions (as no one has completely consistent belief systems).
She is not a manic pixie dream girl: “A term coined by film critic Nathan Rabin, observing Kirsten Dunst's character in Elizabethtown (2005), said that the MPDG ‘exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.’”
She is not “just an average woman” but at the same time “not like other women” (This is so common in a lot of writing and not only is it an annoying trope, but it doesn’t even make logical sense!).
She has autonomy over her actions, and when she doesn’t, it’s a purposeful choice on the part of the author.
She can be relatable to people who aren’t women
These are just a few things that I came up with, but to be honest, I don’t think you need to overthink it. As long as you are writing from an authentic and introspective place, your poetry will have depth, meaning, and be thought-provoking, regardless of who the narrator is. Happy writing!