Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Gender Talk

by Stephanie

Lauren brought this link to my attention this morning, and I had to share with you.  The people at OverthinkingIt.com created a fantastic flowchart representing the one- and two-dimensional female characters that repeatedly appear in contemporary fiction.  First of all, I never met a flowchart I didn’t like.  But I really enjoyed this one because it puts a tongue-in-cheek spin on something that manages to appear over and over in literature.  And as the accompanying article points out, while there certainly are male stereotypes out there, there seem to be far more female characters whose development gives in to the stereotypes.  Which makes me wonder if it is, for some reason, more challenging to construct a female character not entrenched in these stereotypes. What’s the deal with that?


  1. That flow chart is awesome! I followed it for my main character and she is deemed a Mary Sue. Not sure how I feel about that yet...

  2. I love that chart! I had to do an infographic assignment for a grad school course recently and wish I'd had free reign of the topic, because doing something like that would be fun. It will also be a useful resource in the future if I feel a female character is falling short or becoming clichéd.

    I think the challenge of writing female characters that don't fall into these stereotypes is that chart covers a LOT of character types but has a rather narrow definition of what a strong female character is. Seriously, if she has everything else but dies at the end of the second act, she's not strong anymore? Or if she's not the main character, which seems to be the flaw with Zoe from Firefly, who I'm sure many people would argue is strong? I find it interesting that they don't have an example of a strong female character next to that declaration. There's not even one? Superficial yes/no questions might make every woman fall into one of those categories. That, and there's a lot of cultural baggage associated with women, and it can be a challenge to break free without turning the character into a man with boobs (i.e. retaining some femininity).

  3. i think you should take a tiny second to check out my blog from my book:


    i think you kinda want to...


  4. This is great! I love OverthinkingIt!

    Reading Portis's True Grit made me think a lot about this. His thirteen-year-old girl "reads" like a boy, but her subjectivity is more similar in some ways to my thirteen-year-old one than any of the teen romances I've read. Very curious.

    Another question:

    Are men and women who are lesbians able to break stereotypes of women "better" than straight women? (Vast generalization, I know.)

  5. PS I'm also thinking about Harriet the Spy.