misogynistic? Sexist? Woman hating?

28 10 2015

Musing on the daily sexism which lies beneath the veneer of men. Building a character who is sexist and blatant about it is different from a character who is your normal bloke who thinks he isn’t sexist but …

I’ve taken to breaking down my interactions with women, my “touch points” to use some marketing speak I picked up in a recent session about promoting a novel. I’ve also taken to focusing my normal author habit of people watching on exactly that. 

As an intriging intro to the subject here are a few of the institutionalised thoughts and actions I have had or seen

– family group in public. Kids playing up. Look to the mum first to control them. 

– bad driving. Think “woman driver”. Too many old jokes told to think anything else?

– nice house. What does her husband do?

– pretty young woman. Use the word “pretty” rather than just “young woman”. Always with sex in mind?

– passing by a kids football team playing in the park, parents shouting encouragement. Why does he have long hair?

– you throw like a girl

– any offer of a lift must include thoughts of sex

– any woman must include thoughts of sex

– slag v stud

When it comes down to it, how many relationships start with the mutual attraction of the mind. Some, of course. Most, not. Men and women are different by definition but is one better than the other?

Our minds and attitudes are shaped by our upbringing and sometimes there are some of those unconscious attitudes which are so ingrained that all you can do is look to control them, bite them back in disgust, hide them behind your new man veneer, the mask we wear. 

Sometimes they escape. How do they manifest, which bit of the mask slips?

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White hats, black hats, masks and pencil moustaches – who’s the baddie?

14 10 2013

I don’t write children’s books where, for the very young, an author has to make the baddie obvious. They cackle rather than laugh, they lurk rather than wait, they are sly rather than cunning. And they often wear a black hat.

In the world of adult literature the role of the baddie isn’t so clear cut. Nor should it be. There are bad people out there – people without redeeming characteristics, without a care for the social convention. But they are pretty rare. Most of us live in shades of gray – not 50 necessarily, but quite a few and those shades can lighten or darken depending on what we are doing at any one point in time.
Ask anyone not locked up in my cellar and they see me as a good man, someone with obvious flaws, attractive ones of course, but nothing which would put me on a register or lead to imprisonment. Ask me, and I might give you a bit more background about hidden motives behind good deeds which may cast shadows on your perception. Does that make me a baddie? How would I portray myself as a baddie in the written word to put the reader on notice or should I leave it to them to work out for themselves?

The latter is the obvious answer. Leading my reader by the nose is not how I see the contract between us. Every one of us has had a bad day, most of us succumb to the darker urges to varying degrees at some time in our lives. I think it is my job to show by actions, by written thoughts, by implication that this is the villain of our show. If you, dear reader, are worse than the bad things I illustrate him or her with then I rather imagine you will keep it to yourself!HH Coventry wears many hats but does not have a pencil moustache!





Homophobe or Racist – which do you prefer?

18 09 2013

As a writer you have to live inside other people’s heads for much of your life. I’m a bloke, have been all my life, but I find myself inside the minds of my heroines. The creative mind sits inside someone I will never be – but women (obviously) face many of the same issues as men and I can empathise with many of the others!
In much the same way I sometimes find myself inside a bigot, a rapist, a killer – trying to understand them, trying to make their voices plausible, their actions consistent. And I don’t always know if I am doing it right!
If a bigot hates gays does it follow that he/she also has to have a problem with black people or Jews or the Welsh? If they don’t ‘have to’ be universally bigoted is there somewhere I can go to find out the correlation. Do 90% of KKK members regularly protest against vegans or is it only 5% or not correlated at all? Does the national census track this? Do Which? produce a report? Who knows these things?
I’m being deliberately flippant about this because it is all in my head. If I want to make my baddie even worse I will throw some casual racism into their dialogue because I see that as a bad thing in a person. But if I make them racist can they also be gay – do people with one unjustified subjectively dodgy bias automatically have to have more? Does a homosexual racist criminal have to hate straight people?
Sometimes I think it is better to steer away from such questions but sometimes a writer just can’t. Characters develop with a story and sometimes they aren’t consistent and sometimes, to be blunt, they turn out to be complete b**tards!