On TikTok, being 'written by a woman' is the ultimate compliment - MrLiambi's blog

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Saturday, 7 August 2021

On TikTok, being 'written by a woman' is the ultimate compliment

Celebrities like Kurtis Conner, Harry Styles, Timothée Chalamet, Hozier, and Bo Burnham have been described as

The phrase "written by a woman" erupted on TikTok earlier this summer to describe men who were respectful, kind, and unafraid of femininity.

In contrast, the phrase "written by a man" gained traction to describe female characters written through the male gaze. Male authors have been accused of writing women as one-dimensional beings with little development compared to their male counterparts. Women written by men are also infamous for being described in vivid, unnecessary detail.

Discussions about men written by women and women written by men have been brewing on TikTok for months, inspiring a meme in which users transcended the gender dichotomy.

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Tweet may have been deleted
Tweet may have been deleted

On TikTok, the tag #menwrittenbywomen has 20.2 million views, and #writtenbymen has racked up 45.4 million. The trends are opening up larger conversations about the unrealistic and inaccurate way female characters are written, which has been a decades-long discussion online.

The most recent iteration of the debate started on BookTok, a limitless online book club of readers and authors who use the app to promote novels, discuss new reads, and fantasize about fictional men. To many on BookTok, male love interests written by female authors represent the ideal of a man for women â€" they're eloquent, multi-faceted, and even if flawed, they're willing to see the error of their ways to ultimately compromise. Men written by women, as described by BookTok creators, don't have to be heroes, but they do have rich storylines.

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Think characters like Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice or Outlander's Jamie Fraser, who are often mentioned in TikTok videos by users fantasizing about men written by women. These love interests aren't the center of the stories they exist in, but unlike the bulk of female love interests written by men, they have their own motives and traits outside of the protagonists' own development. They aren't necessarily effeminate, but their masculinity isn't rooted in toxic standards.

In one of the earlier examples of this trend from March, TikTok user merhiddlesbatch joked that she hated men, but still adored men written by women. She used photos of Mr. Darcy, Laurie Laurence from Little Women, and the Hot Priest from Fleabag â€" all fictional men who played a love interest in stories by female writers â€" to prove her point.

Fictional men just hit different.
Fictional men just hit different.
Credit: tiktok / merhiddlesbatch
The Hot Priest from Fleabag is a prime example of a man written by a woman.
The Hot Priest from Fleabag is a prime example of a man written by a woman.
Credit: Tiktok / merhiddlesbatch

Male authors, however, are notorious for their lackluster attempts at writing women, and often considered to be woefully out of touch with women entirely.

As TikTok users gushed about men written by women, other creators made fun of the way men continue to write women. And in late July, TikTok users began mocking the sexualized, unrealistic portrayals of women in pop culture by acting out tropes like sneaking out of a one-night stand's bed, sleeping in a full face of makeup and lingerie, and discovering feminism.

The scenarios range from the mundane to dramatic, but each TikTok user's skit skewers the way so many female characters are written in movies, TV shows, video games, and books. Creator zhannared, acting as a woman written by a man just having breakfast, seductively danced around her kitchen as she mixed pancake batter. YouTuber xowiejones, portraying herself as a "woman taking a bubble bath written by a man," posed in the tub with a full face of makeup, carefully placed foam, and dozens of candles. Game developer and streamer Morgan Ling placed bowls on her chest to parody the gravity-defying, revealing outfits that female video game characters wear to fight.

Female game characters are infamous for wearing revealing, impractical costumes.
Female game characters are infamous for wearing revealing, impractical costumes.
Credit: tiktok / riotmormori
Ling parodied female characters written by men with this ingenious outfit.
Ling parodied female characters written by men with this ingenious outfit.
Credit: tiktok / riotmormori

"It's a pretty common meme that women in some games [are] wearing basically a bra and panty set versus their fully covered male counterpart," Ling said in an Instagram DM. "When you mainly sexualize female characters and don't have diversity (body shape, race, etc.) women can feel like they don't have representation and often feel objectified."

As a woman who works in the male-dominated games industry, Ling is hyperaware of the way games tend to cater to men. While she noted that games are starting portray female characters more realistically, it's a "hard truth" that female characters exist for their sex appeal.

On the other hand, men written by men are often crafted with rich backgrounds, complex motives, and unique character development arcs, bolstered with nuance and personality that female characters aren't. Take the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has long overlooked its female characters unless they're paired up with a man for a last-minute romantic subplot, inciting criticism for the franchise's paltry attempts at representation.

Women written by men, on the other hand, have plagued literature and beyond through human history.

From the earliest forms of storytelling to the novels lining modern bookshelves, female characters are seen as overwhelmingly one-dimensional compared to their male counterparts. Jonathan Franzen, an award-winning novelist hailed as his generation's greatest writer, described one of the main female characters in his 2010 book, Freedom, as "notably larger than everybody else, also less unusual, also measurably dumber." Freedom received critical acclaim, but also sparked backlash over how quickly the literary world fawns over white male writers.

In a 2013 Atlantic piece, novelist Sally Koslow theorized that patriarchal standards for literature may be to blame for the subpar female characters written by men.

"By default, women have it easier than men when they attempt to craft characters of the opposite sex," Koslow said. "Because our whole lives we've been reading vast amounts of literature written by men."

When male authors do write female characters â€" even in rare, otherwise well-written examples of female characters, like the ones in Stephen King's novels â€" their focus on describing a woman's appearance is often bizarrely detailed and uncomfortable.

The subreddit r/menwritingwomen, where Reddit users share excerpts of biologically impossible sex scenes and ridiculous descriptions of female characters, was formed in 2017 and grew to a community of 486,000 readers fed up with ridiculous descriptions of women's bodies. Users frequently criticizes King for his fixation on breasts.

Describing women's bodies in excruciating detail â€" regardless of relevance to plot â€" is so universal, it inspired a 2018 Twitter meme.

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That's not to say that men are incapable of writing women entirely, or that women don't write flat, over-sexualized male characters. As the Hairpin noted in a 2013 essay, "it's not impossible to find good female characters in male writers' books...it's just harder than it should be."

The phrase "written by a woman" was particularly popular on anime TikTok, where users spotlighted beloved shows like Fullmetal Alchemist and Black Butler as examples of well-rounded male characters who were created by female artists.

But the phrase received a fresh wave of criticism when TikTok users began using it to describe male characters who were not written by women, as well as real-life celebrities.

In a video captioned, "men I think were written by women," TikTok user madelyn.mp4 listed popular creators like Bo Burnham, Kurtis Conner, and Markiplier as men written by women. Another video tagged #menwrittenbywomen, posted by kcrowley48, described Harry Styles, Timothée Chalamet, and Hozier. TikTok user brittanyleighball captioned a video of her boyfriend serving her breakfast in bed with, "My guy was definitely 'written by a woman," adding that she "truly hit the jackpot."

They're not written by women just because you think they're hot.

If anything, the trend proves that online culture continues to idealize white men. Having a large female fanbase doesn't mean men are infallible, and as predominantly straight white men, these "men written by women" are likely to have had some problematic takes on racism, misogyny, and sexuality. Burnham even addressed his past comedy routines â€" and the painfully low bar set for white men â€" in his latest special.

"They're not written by women just because you think they're hot," TikTok user conniedont said in an exasperated TikTok in June. Responding to a comment noting that the phrase describes what women find attractive, conniedont added, "I'm talking about the term 'written by women' when applied to real life men. I think it's a dangerous thing to put them on pedestals."

Tabea Bussmann, a photographer who went viral for her cinematic portrayals of women written by men, doesn't think fictional men and women are actually as black and white as the trends joke they are. Still, she likes that the trend forces some reality on impressionable young viewers.

"This is just a stereotype to make fun of," Bussmann told Mashable in an Instagram DM. "It's also important to show young women that you don't have to behave like this."

Regardless of who's writing whom, if you're writing a character of a different gender than yours, it's probably just best practice to try interacting with someone of that gender in real life first.



Source : http://feeds.mashable.com/~r/Mashable/~3/-1KjM_sWu8Y/written-by-a-woman-men-writing-women-meme

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