A list of things NOT to do to your female characters. These are all real examples of things that I saw in two anonymous manuscripts shown to me by two anonymous misogynists. Both misogynists tried to explain to me how each and every point of sexism was okay in their case.
Get ready for some spicy sweary fury because my heart rate is up and I am ready to let loose.
Let’s start of strong with:
1. BOOB ARMOR IS NOT A THING. I’ll say it again for the incels in the back. BOOB ARMOR IS NOT A FUCKING THING!!!
If your main lady is wearing armor that covers her tits and crotch, and maybe a bit of plating over her shoulders, you have a FUNDAMENTAL misunderstanding of the way battle armor works.
I can’t believe I have to point this out, but the purpose of armor is to protect the body from fatal injuries. It’s to protect the major organs and head. Heart, lungs, intestines, liver, spine, brain… you know. The important stuff.
You’ll notice that tits are not on that list. I mean, sure they get protected, too. But only because they sit directly over the lungs and heart. I mean, your body doesn’t even provide natural protection for them! There is a reason why the heart and lungs are INSIDE the rib cage.
And yet, someone somewhere — probably a game developer somewhere, or a horny comic book writer (no hate, but you have to admit neither of you are innocent in this matter) — decided to put a big-titted lady in a metal bikini and thought, “Hey, that looks pretty good. Heh heh heh.”
And I can understand that it’s part of some whole art style. And that’s fine. GROSS. But fine. People aren’t perfect. But you know what would make me feel a lot better about this? If there was a trope about hunky dudes in stupid pointless iron speedos.
Can you imagine trying to walk around in that? That question applies to both genders btw. Like… how much metal is rubbing between the thighs? And if you’re a lady with any cup size other than “perky model who doesn’t actually need a bra” can you imagine the chafing? I am literally shuddering thinking about it. It is bad enough when an ill-fitting FABRIC bra rubs wrong all day. But if it’s metal?
And before you start yelling about undergarments, the FMC in question was wearing a bra and underwear under her metal armor. So no skin protection at all.
And speaking of which, that leads us beautifully into the next item on our list.
2. Why is it always the women who are naked and never the men?
This is the scene that had me tossing this book across the room. (Figuratively speaking, as it was in digital format on my computer, and I would never toss my computer, no matter how enraged I was. Come to think of it, I probably wouldn’t toss a book either.) There was a slew of sexism leading up to this, but this was the final straw for me.
This is also the scene with the boob armor, by the way. This scene was a twofer.
In this scene, a man and a woman are lounging in the shade of a tent in the middle of a sandy desert. The man is fully dressed in lovely described robes that go down to his feet, long sleeves. He is laying back with his head in the woman’s lap.
The woman is in her bra and panties. The only other thing she has to wear is her boob/crotch armor, but she took those off for now because they’re relaxing. Of course.
This is another thing I can’t believe I have to point out: If a blonde woman is wandering around in the desert — and if she happens to be a human being with nerve endings — she is going to learn really really REALLY FUCKING FAST TO PROTECT HER SKIN FROM THE SUN.
The author in this case tried to explain both items 1 and 2 by saying the woman was from a culture where women were very free with their bodies.
Dude, I don’t fucking care where she’s from or if they are a country of nudists who participate in orgies every third Wednesday. I fucking love the human body, both male and female. I love sex. I love women who have sex and ask for sex and are proud of their bodies. The ladies are pretty and smooth and powerful and soft. The men are pretty and smooth and powerful and soft — but in very different and delightful ways.
But why, in the Year of Our Lady Taylor Swift, is it still only the women who are sexualized? Why do we never celebrate the masculine beauty of a man’s firm thigh? Sweaty pecs? Pouty lips? Perky butt cheeks?
Guys, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret, m’kay? You’re not gonna catch gay by having your men be as sexual as your women.
3. Don’t have every single male be an abuser, and every single female be abused.
In fact, if we can just move away from the whole rape as a plot device thing entirely, that would be fucking phenomenal. Especially if you don’t know what the holy fuck you’re talking about.
This section may be a little difficult to read for some. Feel free to skip ahead if you don’t need to hear about sexual abuse.
In the few short chapters I read of this manuscript, every single female character was the victim of rape, most of it spousal. That’s bad enough. But the specific rape that pissed me off so much was the rape of a 15 year old girl by a demigod.
First, the girl’s father told her to be grateful for the rape, because now she gets to carry the son of a demigod. Fucking hell. Jesus H Christo on a cracker fuck.
Second, this assault spurred her mother into action. Mama’s gonna go kill this demigod for hurting her precious baby. This means that the rape WASN’T EVEN A DIRECT EFFECT ON THE MAIN CHARACTER. This side character was assaulted in order to support the plot line for another character. JESUS H CHRISTO ON A CRACKER FUCK.
Third, this mother swore to kill the rapist so that her daughter would feel safe again. JESUS H CHRISTO ON A CRACKER FUCK!!!!!
Folks, this is where I knew for a fact that the author had no idea whatsoever about the trauma of rape. I tried to explain to him that it didn’t matter if the rapist was brought to justice, if he could never hurt anyone ever again. That poor girl will never feel safe again. Not ever. She has lost that fundamental need of safety FOREVER. Because from now on, forever, every single man is a potential attacker, especially if they are larger than she is.
And we all know that, with a misogynist author, all the women are willowy, slender, and delicate. And all the men are beefy, hairy, and strong.
Anyway, he seemed to think my strong disgust about the whole matter was proof that he was actually doing something right, because “he had gotten a strong reaction out of me.”
God, what number am I on?
4. You can’t have a female character be both the “most trusted advisor to the chief” and also “nothing and not worth listening to by anyone at all in the story.”
Yeah, that one about explains itself, doesn’t it? The main character is the most trusted advisor to the chief. For a second I thought, “Hey, this is a good sign, right? A woman holding an important and well respected position in the community? Excellent.”
Well that good sign went the way of most road signs in rural Arkansas: riddled with buck shot and no longer readable because all the paint chipped off.
Yeah, the second she got home, her polygamist husband (multiple wives, neither of them willing, and they’re actual sisters with each other – strike 2, 3, and 4), completely shut her down as being worthless. He abused her, hit her, belittled her, called her inconsequential, etc etc etc.
Well that guy’s just a class 4 dick, right?
Yeah… FMC goes back to the chief to ask for help, and he literally calls her a whore and a sister-fucker and tells her she gives bad advice.
Makes you wonder how she got the job in the first place, right? It’s almost like this author wanted her to be both abused/pitiable/victim and also a “strong female character who is important in the world” — except that he clearly didn’t understand any of those concepts.
5. Don’t relegate all your female characters to “female roles.”
This one started out with a bit more hope. It came from an entirely different manuscript (yes, that means items 1-4 were all in one manuscript, plus a bunch more little things). In this one, the author wanted to know if he was falling into any accidentally sexist tropes, because he certainly didn’t want to do that.
Funnily enough, he was being sexist. And of course, when I pointed that out, he just said he thought it would be fine the way it was.
Jesus fucking christ okay. Glad you asked me a question and then completely ignored my answer fuck.
Okay, the situation:
In his book, the female lead was a wizard in a world where only men had magic. Yeah… even just the setup screams SEXIST doesn’t it? Where’s that red flag guy from tiktok when you need him?
I tried to explain to the guy that this is boiling her entire characterization down to WOMAN. There are so many SO MANY more interesting hurdles for a character to overcome that have nothing to do with a vagina. Past trauma, unfounded confidence, ambition without skill (shoot, maybe skill without ambition), familial expectations, a shitty attitude, social anxiety, someone’s jealous of her, she’s too powerful and presents a danger to others.
And plus, this setup describes everyone EXCEPT for the main character, doesn’t it? It describes all of them as sexist. And it tells me nothing at all about her.
This is actually something the other author did as well. Every female character was only female because the role she occupied demanded it. Wife, wife, daughter, seer (who can only be female in this world building). Even the main character’s motivation required her to be a woman in order for it to work.
Because if a man were so enraged by his daughter’s rape that he demanded justice — he would just fucking get it, wouldn’t he? He wouldn’t be told “NO, YOU WHORE!” by every authority figure he knew. He wouldn’t be forced to do things the most dangerous way possible, alone, knowing it would kill him. That is simply not a fantasy trope, is it?
No, in fantasy and adventure, the righteous father rallies the neighbors. He gets together a whole squad of other men who will do the right thing, get justice, no matter the cost. They will battle valiantly, most of them dying in the effort, but they will be victorious! They will all be called heroes, and there will probably be a statue put up for them in the square.
But no. If it’s a mother, she gets called a whore and is told to shut the fuck up.
And you’d think that would make this book’s entire theme “feminine rage.” You would think so. And it had such potential to do that. I wanted so very badly for it to be about feminine rage. But everything about it was handled in such a problematic way that it just circled back around to plain old sexist.
Because after she kills the rapist on her own, she doesn’t get a statue. No one even knows it was her, because she changed into a wolf to do the deed. She doesn’t even get an ENDING. Instead we get a chapter break and jump to a blonde woman tempting fate in the desert with an iron bikini.