When writing a series about Cliché’s one cannot avoid talking about gender clichés, I plan to discuss both male clichés and female clichés in turn. Today we will be looking at the types of female character clichés that occur so often in stories.
I won’t be covering all of them just the ones that irritate me, as there are far to many to cover all of them.
When writing female character’s, it is important to give your character depth, this is important when writing any kind of character. To give your character depth you need to know a little something about their experiences and how the world reacts to them, the types of things they go through, things that happen to them that might not happen to a different gender or race character. For example, a black character will experience the world differently to a white character. A straight character differently to a gay character. A male character to a female character.
One of the things that female characters experience that males do not is periods. It’s a simple fact of life, women have periods, and something that I have picked up on when reading female characters is that when periods are considered things either go one of two ways.
One way is that they are ignored completely, I can almost understand this as after all we don’t write about every single bodily function when writing a story, for instance rarely do bathroom habits come into stories as much as they do in real life. But I think it is different with periods they should at least get a mention, this is something that can affect your character physically that happens every four-five weeks it should at least get a mention.
The other way is that the periods are mentioned but they change the female character completely, she figuratively turns into a rage monster who is only sated with chocolate. Speaking as a woman, I am aware that periods affect all of us differently, some hardly notice the thing and others are in constant pain for three to five days. But I am yet to see anyone turn into a rage monster. When this happens in books it just makes me think of the age-old comment “don’t mind her she’s on her period,” whenever a woman is mad about something. It dismisses genuine emotion and quite frankly it’s demeaning and a bit pants.
This character is a stereotype more so than a cliché but it drives me mad. This character is defined by her relationship to the characters around her (usually chaps I’m afraid) and that’s so dull. There’s no depth, there’s no characterisation, there’s no nothing. She’s a mean plank of wood, at least until someone breaks through her cold exterior and suddenly look she was a real girl all along.
I understand that there are women out there who are cold to those around them, this goes for any gender though. Some people are just a bit distant, sometimes they have reason to be. The reason this cliché annoys me so much is that it is a female stereotype, the only thing worth knowing about this character is that she’s cold to the (usually) men in her life. Nothing else worth knowing. Move on next character, please. It’s so lazy, it drives me mental.
I think it annoys me so much because of real-world connotations, women are accused of being cold in certain situations, usually, situations when they rebuke advances or don’t behave in the stereotypical cute way that’s expected of them. I hate seeing it in real life and I hate seeing it in fiction.
Most Gorgeous Person Ever
This cliché could apply to male or female characters, and like the above two, it drives me mental.
I can understand it in some circumstances, usually when the story is told from the point of view of a character. If they are madly in love with this woman, of course to them she will be the most attractive person ever. In those instances, I’m fine with them referring to her as the most gorgeous creature alive, as long as it’s in moderation (personal preference but gushing about this kind of thing bores me).
What I dislike seeing is when beauty or handsomeness is a character trait, when lots of characters refer to her or him as the most beautiful or the most handsome ever, when other characters respond to them in over the top ways because they are so mind-shatteringly gorgeous. I am aware that humans as a species do judge on appearances and we do react differently to those we find beautiful than to those we don’t, however, this cliché takes that to extremes. Beauty is objective, what one person finds attractive will be different to the person next to them, Helen of Troy aside there is no such thing as a perfect physical specimen because perfection is subjective.
I’m perfectly fine with a character who is attractive but not at the cost of depth, attractiveness is not a character trait, it’s not a personality trait. Give this person more characterisation than “they be pretty”.
Those are my top three female character clichés, I’d be interested in hearing what clichés you hate to see in female characters, perhaps we can rant and rave together.