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140 votes

How do I know if a concept is sexist or not?

Sexism isn't a yes/no kind of thing, and it's a mistake to treat it as such. Saying that a story or an idea is "sexist" is shorthand. What it means is that it creates, encourages, or reinforces ...
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84 votes
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Averting Real Women Don’t Wear Dresses

I would suggest looking at the women in your life (family, friends, co-workers, etc). I have a problem with the ideas of 'feminine qualities' and 'femininity'. They imply that without those a woman ...
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79 votes
Accepted

What is meant by "purposeful, habitual, and gratuitous" actions?

The essay is from a 1971 symposium on women in science fiction. The 3 actions are defined in relation to the plot, not the character's psychology. Purposeful Actions are what we'd call "character ...
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75 votes
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Avoiding the "not like other girls" trope?

If you want to avoid showing a character as "not like other girls" then make sure your "other girls" aren't stereotypical. The trope shows up with female characters who don't fit in. They don't have ...
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71 votes
Accepted

What's the least distracting method to inform editors I'm a woman?

If you are submitting to a professional journal that (like many) puts a short blurb about the author(s) somewhere in the article or journal, you could provide a suggested blurb and ensure that there ...
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61 votes
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Is it bad to have no gender variety?

The absence of representation in a single story is not harmful. The absence of representation across all media is harmful. On of the trickiest things to understand about discrimination is that a ...
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59 votes

What's the least distracting method to inform editors I'm a woman?

As a person of color, I've sometimes had a version of the same dilemma. Is there a professional organization for people of your gender and expertise? If so, you could join the organization, and then ...
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48 votes

Is there any pronoun in English that can include both HE and SHE?

"They" is typically the English pronoun you would use here. It is a generally accepted, gender-neutral pronoun that has been in usage for centuries to refer to any of the following: A group ...
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  • 8,622
44 votes

How to describe a female character's figure without comedy?

Don't describe the character's body. Let the action and the other characters do it for you. "Have you met Lydia yet?" "No, why?" John and Andy exchanged a knowing look. "Let me just say ...
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  • 1,692
44 votes
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How to write female characters with agency?

On "Jo Writes Stuff", Jo has produced an epic analysis of whether or not a character is a "strong female character"; and a test to go with it. Here is her instructions on How To Use The Test. She ...
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  • 92.1k
41 votes

How do I know if a concept is sexist or not?

Assuming you aren't a woman yourself, I would suggest talking this idea through with several women to see how it strikes them. It can be difficult to see through the eyes of a group you don't belong ...
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41 votes

How do I know if a concept is sexist or not?

I am a woman, and I don't find this sexist. It is only sexist if the implication is that women are somehow inferior because this process renders them infertile. I don't read that into this idea; ...
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  • 631
41 votes

How to write female characters with agency?

Woman here. :) I think what your female character would struggle with most is that suddenly she does need her man beside her - for safety, for being treated a certain way by other people, etc. It ...
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40 votes

Need advice about changing character's gender

Each writer is of one gender, and one sexual orientation, and in order for their stories to reflect real life, they have to learn to write from the POV of other genders and other sexual orientations. ...
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  • 92.1k
40 votes
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What pronouns should I use for a character with no gender?

"They/them" is typically the modern way of referring to an agender, nonbinary or nonconforming person, unless that person has other preferred pronouns - usually they will tell you if that's ...
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  • 8,622
35 votes

What's the least distracting method to inform editors I'm a woman?

I also have a confusing first name. When I want to clarify, I sign email as "Firstname Lastname (Ms.)". That conveys my gender as effectively as "Ms. Firstname Lastname", but by putting the title at ...
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  • 351
34 votes

Is it bad to have no gender variety?

No, your story is not sexist. Please free yourself from the ideological chains that other people have heaped on you to the point where you ask question after question about whether or not your ...
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33 votes

What's the least distracting method to inform editors I'm a woman?

I once saw someone in your situation address the problem by adding a (gendered) middle name to signatures. This could either be your real middle name if you have one, or a nickname that you're ...
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33 votes

A critic made a comment that my female character sounds like she was written by a man

This critique is always complicated because of how nuanced gender actually is. This is actually a frequent problem with male authors. We tend to have experience and methods of thinking that are ...
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  • 1,564
32 votes

How do I justify a mansplainer/misogynist?

This might not be terribly PC but this behavior doesn't have to be misogynistic or mansplainy. It can very much seem like it is. And it can be aggravating as hell. It just doesn't have to come from ...
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30 votes

What pronoun should a hermaphrodite species use?

You have a number of options: If the narrator of the book is a human, it would be entirely acceptable to use "he" or "she" (no point in switching between them) throughout the book as standard, with ...
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  • 11.6k
27 votes

Avoiding the "not like other girls" trope?

Embrace the opposite of the trope. Is there some reason Supergirl cannot love talking fashion, and own ten pairs of shoes? Is there some reason a brilliant chemist must also be mousy and ...
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  • 92.1k
27 votes

How do I present a future free of gender stereotypes without being jarring or overpowering the narrative?

Men do wear skirts: kilts, sarongs, hakamas, fustanellas... If your world is culturally diverse, any and all of those might have become common enough. In sci-fi stories in particular, new fashions is ...
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27 votes

Pronouns when writing from the point of view of a robot

While it's okay to gender your robots if you really feel the need, it's not necessary. The first version with "it" instead of "he" read just fine. It's a bit awkward writing it, as we're trained to ...
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26 votes
Accepted

How do I create uniquely male characters?

I think what's tripping you up is the idea that your male characters need to be characters that could not possibly be female. This probably comes from traditions of valuing what men do and devaluing ...
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25 votes
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Realistically incorporating trans/nonbinary characters

It's extremely important for media to depict people out of the gender/sexuality mainstream as normal. So your best bet is to do exactly that: have a diversity of characters and show it all as ...
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