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How would you look through the eyes of a terrible male author?

Have you contemplated the shape, appearance and behaviour of your own breasts yet today, ladies? These women on Twitter have and it’s hilarious

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By Amy Jones on

She sat down at the laptop, artfully mussed red hair tucked behind her elvish ears. She was a round woman, all wide hips and soft stomach, topped off by a pair of enormous breasts that her tight floral dress struggled to contain. They almost, but not quite, made up for the rest of her. Her face was pale, child-like with its big eyes and freckles, but she wore thick, black glasses and heavy eyeliner to show that she was a woman, a girl no more. She was wearing a wedding ring and it made me wonder – was she clinging on to a childhood sweetheart, afraid of what other men were out there? She opened a new document and started typing, a determination rising within her to show the world who she really was…

Before you start emailing The Pool because you’re worried one of their writers has lost their mind, don’t worry. I’m just taking part in the new Twitter challenge, “Describe Yourself Like a Male Author Would”. It was inspired after writer and artist Gwen C Katz found an author who positioned himself as an authority on writing women because his female protagonist thought like this:

Rather than despair and decide it’s probably safer to never read another book again, the internet decided to do what it does best: take the mick. Whitney Reynolds posited the “Describe Yourself Like A Male Author Would” challenge and the replies have been aflame ever since.

A lot of responders have been pointing out that if you’re a woman of colour, it’s even worse – if you’re black, you’re likely to be described in reference to some kind of food (chocolate, coffee, aubergine...). If you wear a hijab, then there’ll be some description of the sadness you feel at your oppression and, if you’re Asian, then there’ll be a comment of some sort on your exoticness and/or “almond-shaped eyes” before you’re reduced to a sexual object. It’s almost impressive, isn’t it, the variety of bullshit terrible male writers can produce?

At the start of this piece, I had my own go at the challenge. The thing is, a bad male author probably wouldn’t actually describe me like that because, as many pointed out, I’m fat but too young to be a maternal figure so, in reality, I probably wouldn’t make it into the book at all. Be fuckable according to society’s incredibly tight standards or GTFO, amiright, lads?

Some men are responding to the challenge by worrying that they shouldn’t write female characters at all, but that’s not the point of this. It’s about pointing out how it’s often done badly and highlighting the ridiculousness of that. When men write women badly, it’s often because they treat them like a strange sub-species who are oddly preoccupied with the shape, appearance and behaviour of their own breasts – don’t do that and you should be fine. And, guys, the same goes in fiction as it does in real life: treat women like actual human people, and you can’t go far wrong.


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