Gender Norms

gender stereotypesDon’t use stereotypes when you write.  I know you’ve heard that advice but have you ever taken it beyond character?

You know what I mean by character stereotypes.  These are the characters that tend to be cardboard and two dimensional.  The perky cheerleader. The brainy but clutzy computer geek.  The melodramatic drama student. When we use these character types, editors reject our work because it just isn’t original or carefully crafted.

The problem is that we have similar problems when we create plots that contain gender stereotypes.  Not sure what I mean?

Who experience prom woes?  A girl such as Lizzie Bennett in Prom and Prejudice. 

Who seeks vengence after a loved one dies?  Boys or men including The Crow and John Wick.

Who has to hide their gender?  Girls like Ruby and Lord Athen in A Riddle in Ruby. 

Who creates/purchases a robot to date?  A boy such as David in Girl Parts.

Who has adventures with a stuffed animal?  Girls like Trixie in Knuffle Bunny and Amanda in Amanda and her Alligator.

Who wants to play football?  Boys like Mo Jackson in Don’t Throw it to Mo.

I’m not panning these creative efforts but let’s face it.  They’ve been done. You can bet that if we can name two or three books and movies in each category above, then editors have seen hundreds more.  “I know . . . she doesn’t have a stuffed bunny.  It’s a stuffed giraffe. Or what if Trixie never found the bunny?”  Let’s face it, we’ve all written a derivative story or two.

How could we shake these stereotypes up? For prom, you could write a story about a boy who wants to go but his girlfriend is entirely underwelmed by the idea.  Maybe she thinks its a waste of money.  Maybe she refuses to wear a dress and her school has a dress code.

What about a young woman who must avenge the death of her husband/boyfriend?  By some means other than poison which is often seen as a woman’s weapon.

When you start to craft a story, think carefully about your main character?  Is your plot stereotypic for this gender?  If so, what could you do to make your story and character unique?