Yesterday, I attended a very interesting Sisters In Crime meeting in North Carolina. The drive over from our house was quite pleasant. Traffic was light and the scenery was outstanding. No one was in a hurry, which is pretty normal for these parts. And that slow pace gave me time to really take in my new surroundings.
It’s fall in our neck of the woods, and the area trees have gone way above and beyond the call of duty to provide us with a spectacular showing of color. Even though it was a sunny day, there was a slight crispness in the air that reminded me of growing up in the south. Sometimes, on cool autumn nights, my mother would load a cookie sheet with freshly-dug peanuts, right off the vines and still in their shells, and roast them in her old gas oven. The smell of those toasty legumes would quickly fill the house, drawing my father, my brother, and me to the kitchen like hogs to slop (I’m trying to fit in my new hood. Is it working?). There’s not another smell (the peanuts, not the hogs) like that on earth. It’s wonderful.
For me, the south is peanuts, tobacco, soy beans, red clay, pork barbecue, sweet tea, sitting in the shade, lightening bugs, catfishing, good friends, magnolias with leaves as large as dinner plates, and kids that still say “Yes Ma’am” and “No Ma’am.”
What the south isn’t, is the stereotypical place that’s filled to the brim with dumb redneck men, and wimpy, faint-at-the-drop-of-a-hat, women. However, there are some people below the old Mason Dixon line who still think the woman’s place in this world is in the kitchen, not writing books, or anywhere else that doesn’t involve cookin’, cleanin’ and birthin’ babies. Which brings me back to the Sisters in Crime meeting and one of the topics we discussed – writing cross gender.
The timing of this meeting with a group of strong, successful women writers, was perfect. I’d just finished reading a book where the author chose to write the female hero as a wimpy, yet over the top character who couldn’t make a move without consulting her male partner. This so-called hero, who, while lacking in basic skills like decision-making and backbone-wearing, could fly helicopters, shoot any weapon known to mankind, and build explosives and other handy-dandy life-saving devices out of household products, such as oatmeal and dental floss. Yet, she dressed in high heels and low-cut tops while saving the underdog from death and destruction (I’m sorry, but it would be nearly impossible to chase down and fight a bad guy while wearing sexy platform slingback heels). She used her femininity to the point of being downright slutty. In other words, the author committed what I believe to be one of the deadliest writing sins ever – thinking female cops are wimps, therefore overcompensating for what the writer obviously thought was the protagonist’s major flaw, being a woman.
Folks, there’s no need to do this. In fact, please don’t do this. To write female cops in this manner and style is a real show-stopper for me. I’ve worked with many female officers in my day, many of whom were quite feminine, and every single one of them were every bit as suited for the job as their male counterparts. Actually, many women score higher than men, academically, in the basic police academy. Some female trainees outperform men in various practical exercises as well, and continue to do so throughout their careers.
On the street, female officers are equal to male officers. Sure, some female officers excel in certain areas, while other duties aren’t their strong points, but the same is true for male officers. Bravery is not an issue for officers of either gender. I’ve been in some pretty tough situations where my backup was a female officer, and in each situation the woman jumped into the fight without hesitation. Again, there’s no difference in the job performance of the two sexes.
Female and male officers receive the same training, wear uniforms manufactured by the same companies, take the same oath, drive the same patrol cars, carry the same weapons, and arrest the same bad guys. Male and female detectives work the same cases. They solve the same murders, question the same witnesses, raid the same crack houses, and testify in the same courts. So why write male and female cops differently? Why do the writers of the Castle TV show write the female M.E. weaker than the male M.E.? Why is she a wimpy character? His character is certainly very strong.
The problem, I think, with people writing opposite genders is that some authors simply try too hard. Being a woman is not something that should require an apology, which could be what all this over the top stuff is all about.
Sgt. Kimberly Munley, the hero at Fort Hood.
What do you guys think? Why do some authors write women heroes differently than they pen their male protagonists? Are there authors who do a good job at writing opposite gender? If so, who are your favorites?
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Writers Police Academy
There has been a slight delay in getting the Writers’ Police Academy registration online. We want to make sure everything is perfect before we do open registration. Hopefully , we’ll see it in a day or two. Thanks for your patience.
There is a test page up at www.writerspoliceacademy.com so you can get an idea of what the site looks like. Keep in mind that this is just a test page. There are still a few errors, missing information, and incomplete text.