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139

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 sexist stereotypes, and that those stereotypes have real-world consequences. So, a good way to come at this issue is to use these: Guiding Questions What are the ...


84

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 isn't a real woman. Much like a man won't be a real man unless he is and can do a set of things. You could perhaps think about the stereotypes for 'manly ...


78

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 agency" today. It is the character's actions that directly or indirectly effect the plot. Habitual Actions show the character's normal state or routine. ...


76

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 a lot of female friends, if any. When they do the stuff they like to do, they're surrounded by men. You can praise these characters all you want but the ...


69

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 is at least one feminine pronoun in it somewhere. If they don't, or you don't know, you could say, "in case you need an author's introduction, here is a ...


61

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 story that is not in itself discriminatory is capable of fueling a larger trend which is discriminatory. No book or movie can tell every story. It's simply not ...


58

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 sign as follows: Morgan Meredith American Women Tech Writers Association or Morgan Meredith Member, American Women Tech Writers If there is no such ...


44

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 that once you do, you'll forget all about what's-her-name". Later Without any apparent shame, John and Andy leered at Lydia as she stormed off. "Man! ...


44

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 has stopped any new analysis, but here is a list of All The Characters She Reviewed. I believe this can help you with some of your issues; just writing a post-...


41

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 to, and all too easy to overlook your own biases. On the other hand that doesn't mean you need to take every piece of feedback as gospel truth. "Women" are ...


41

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; merely that there is a cost for summoning a familiar. You could think of it this way: if males can't summon familiars, then is that sexist towards males that ...


41

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 doesn't matter how feminine she was in the 23rd century, it doesn't matter if she liked cooking and staying at home and having doors opened for her, being suddenly ...


40

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. Don't be sexist on yourself, male heterosexual writers have written about homosexual males and homosexual females. Heck, people write convincingly about ...


39

"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 the case. It may feel weird to use "they" at first because it is, strictly grammatically speaking, a plural pronoun, so sometimes people are confused ...


34

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 the end and in parentheses, I don't look like I'm insisting on being addressed by that title. I strongly recommend against putting your photo in your CV, cover ...


34

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 stories are somehow offensive or suffer from some ideological sin. Hint: they're not, and they don't. All the shaming about 'not addressing the issues' or being '...


33

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 prepared to answer to. If it's your real name, just write it normally: Morgan Ann Meredith If it's a nickname, that is, a name you're happy to have people use ...


33

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 typically considered "masculine" and take them as the baseline. This does not mean, whatsoever, that your MC should spend time sitting in her cabin painting her ...


32

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 where you think it comes from. It can turn out he's simply an old school know it all. You can reveal this when you show how he acts with other people. Yep, some ...


30

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 an explanation for this usage by the narrator. Ursula Le Guin's "The Left Hand Of Darkness" used "he" throughout the book, and referred to her androgynous ...


27

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 withdrawn? There is no reason a brain surgeon can't be emotional about receiving unexpected flowers on her anniversary. Whatever a woman's superpowers are, there is ...


27

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 something we take in our stride. But skirts are not really the focus of your question, they're just an aspect, an example. For the broader question, to write a ...


27

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 use "he" or "she" when speaking of beings with volition, but reading it went smoothly. Because you make it obvious they're robots! If you didn't, it would be ...


26

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 what women do. So many women aspire to do "male" things. Showing them succeed at that can be a way of showing their uniqueness. But very few men aspire to do ...


25

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 perfectly normal. Most people don't talk about other people's trans/cis status unless 1) they're jerks or 2) there's a specific reason for it. Sexual orientation is ...


24

Use a courtesy title which reflects your gender. Sign your submission as "Ms. Morgan Meredith." Subtle but unambiguous.


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