Monday, February 21, 2011

We Can Break Gender Stereotypes in Writing

Having just started a fun mystery serious by a male author that stars a female protagonist, the thought about male and female stereotypes in fiction has been on my mind lately. In the series, the Shandra Covington mysteries, by J. Scott Savage, the heroine breaks several female stereotypes, especially that guys always have bigger appetites.  She is a food fanatic and has the metabolism not to blow up like a balloon.  She prefers steak to salad and doesn’t ever stop to count the calories.  I thought it an interesting reversal of how many heroines are portrayed in fiction. 

I think a male author can effectively have a female protagonist and vice versa, but I think that in doing so, the author needs to make an extra effort not to fall into the rut of gender stereotypes.  I suggest the following as a start: 

  • Men are more logical and women are more emotional.
  • Guys like sports, working on cars, and weight lifting.  Women like cooking, gossiping, and decorating.
  •  Men are afraid of commitment.  Women thrive on it.
  • It’s shameful for men to show emotion.  It’s shameful for women not to.
  • It’s a man’s duty to know how to fix the car, the plumbing or anything else around the house.  It’s a woman’s duty to know how to soothe a crying child or whip up anything from scratch. 

Shake things up a little in your fiction!  Have a man who likes to write poetry, or a woman who loves working on cars.  Today’s society is full of people breaking the mold, and that should reflect in your fiction.  What others stereotypes do you think are out there in fiction?  How can you avoid them? 

In a perfect example of breaking stereotypes, my newest release, “Portrait of a Mother” which comes out March 8th, 2011, is a tender Mother’s Day story.  It’s very short, but I think it’s a tale both you and your mother can enjoy.  You can preorder it here:


  1. Good post--I actually see many of the stereotypes in reverse. It seems like too often women are portrayed as men in a woman's body. Tough, sarcastic, angry, crude. Simple role reversal gets old.

    I think it is actually more unique sometimes to have female characters act feminine. Sometimes tradition is okay.

    On the other hand, stereotyping is boring because it lacks imagination and creativity. Simple reversal of traditional roles also lacks imagination and creativity.

  2. Steve, are you saying that men are normally tough, sarcastic, angry & crude? = )

    This post offers a lot to ponder, and I agree with Steve's comments as well mainly because we should avoid stereotypes altogether, whether they are traditional roles or not. People, like characters, (should) have their idiosyncrasies.

  3. Congrats on your new release! I think the best way to avoid stereotypes is to make each character a unique individual. I love to watch people and discover what makes them tick. Best way to get characters for fiction, IMO. Great post.

  4. Michael, congratulations on your Mother's Day book!

    I really like the way Brandon Sanderson writes female characters-strong, intelligent, interesting women.

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