Last night my writing group got on the subject of differences between men and women, and how these differences play a role in character development as well as how our own genders affect our writing. I suggested, and believe, that my female characters are much more like men in their psychology than most real women are. This is because 1) I don’t understand women very well, and 2) what I think I do understand sometimes just makes no emotional or logical sense to me and I can’t write it convincingly.
Candice Proctor, one of the women in our group, mentioned an article that she’d read which said that about 10% of women have brain chemistry pretty close to that of men. I think maybe my female characters come from that 10%. Candice also said that she often feels more comfortable writing about male characters than female characters. I can’t imagine the reverse for myself, but then I think that many women understand men better than most men understand women. I think, in part, that this is because women actually “study” men and try to figure them out, while most men don’t do the same thing in reverse.
So what differences did we come up with between men and women? Here’s my take on it, and other members of my group can correct me if I’m wrong. First, most of us agreed that women and men each have their own gender strength, but that some women come across as having more of a masculine strength than others. Such women may well be respected by other women but are not usually as appealing to men. Madonna was mentioned in this context. Second, women probably spend more time paying attention to the subtexts of conversation, and spend more time trying to figure out what so and so meant by their actions. Women ask more questions about personal situations than men do, and, quite possibly, are simply more curious about those situations. Both women and men are ambitious, but until relatively recently many women had their ambitions short circuited by cultural constraints. Men and women can both be competitive, but men tend to be more globally competitive while women are more situationally competitive and often prefer to build a consensus.
Now for my personal commentary, 1) men are simpler than women, 2) don’t ask a man to be subtle in dealing with interpersonal issues, and 3) why can’t women be more like men (psychologically). One of my best friends is a woman, but I think she’s one of those 10 percenters.