Does This Make Me Look Sexist?

I was recently having a discussion about what is sexist and what isn’t both in writing and in life. Part of the conversation centered on chivalry and it’s role in our society. I want to start out by saying chivalry isn’t inherently sexist.

Chivalry in its purest form is a code of conduct that can be used as a guide to life. It’s not unlike the golden rule in that regard, but I would argue it takes it a step farther. Not only is it “be nice to everyone” but it’s also “protect those that can’t protect themselves”. In this sense I love chivalry. It can be used by men and women alike to do the right thing and protect the weak.

Now, what gets sticky is when misogyny is involved. There are a lot of well meaning people out there who thing women are default weak/helpless. And that is wrong. What also wrong is equating Chivalry with the condescension that happens to women. Chivalry isn’t about being condescending. It’s about doing the right thing.

Being polite to someone isn’t condescending. Being polite to women only because they are women is. Helping someone lift something heavy isn’t condescending. Telling them not to lift something is.

Chivalry isn’t wrong. Treating women like they’re made of glass just because of gender is.

But what about this Damsel in Distress? I hear you ask. Well, let me be the first to tell you, it’s not necessarily that she’s in distress that makes it sexist. Being in danger happens in adventures. Its when she has nothing to contribute /other/ than being in distress that sexism happens. When she isn’t her own person and is only there for eye candy and to make the hero look good, there’s something wrong.

The core of sexism is belittling the other gender (yes, it can be done to men as well as women). Showing through your work (whether you mean to or not) that there is nothing to which ever gender you happen to portray as that “damsel” is wrong.

I have an exercise for you. Take your main character. Are they a hero in a traditional sense? Do they save the day? Do they save another character? Take another look at the character that gets saved. Described them to yourself in a short paragraph. Now, take away the main character. Is your secondary character still there or have they crumbled into dust? If all you’ve got left on your page is dust, you’ve got some work to do.

The point of writing is to create people, places and things. Sometimes we get so caught up in the story that we fail to notice that we’ve only fleshed out our main characters and left everyone else in the dust. Try creating a side plot with your secondary characters; have them work for or against the main plot. Or have them do something else entirely. Make them more than a cardboard cutout for the hero to come in, smooch and carry out under their arm. Remember, they are people too. If you have to, base them off someone you know. What would John/Jane do? The goal here is to have complex characters. I can forgive a weak female character with motivation. I cannot forgive a cardboard cutout.

So, the takeaway point here is while your female character might occasionally be in distress, that should not be their sole role.

Remember, you can always discuss this with me in the comments.


In My Experience: Long, Thick Hair

I considered writing a rant blog about a racist, sexist, homophobic dipshit. However after I cooled off (I made the mistake of actually going to read some of what the asshole had to say) I came to the conclusion that it was best not to feed the trolls. Instead, I’ve decided to fight ignorance (and my continued annoyance) with knowledge. And so begins an experiment in blogging for me. I have some unique life experiences (like everyone); these experiences help me be a more realistic writer in some subjects. I am now going to share some of that experience (because I know the pain of googling for hours to try to find the information that I need). These are only my experiences; I do not claim to be an expert for everyone all of the time! I thought to start out, we’d start with a fairly noncontroversial subject that I know intimately: my hair.

In My Experience: LONG, THICK HAIR

Let me start off by describing my hair to you. It is pretty long, mid-thigh if it’s not curling, and its thick enough I’ve broken combs in it before. It’s an odd color that likes to change with the light, strawberry blonde in the sun, brown under most artificial lighting, red by firelight. It’s fairly fine and soft; much to my dismay I’ve had people want to pet my hair (more on that later).

Grow Time
In 2007 my hair was cut shoulder length for my cousin’s wedding. To reach mid-thigh (in a straggly sense) it has taken 5-6 years to grow. I really should have it trimmed, but don’t plan on doing so until it reaches my knees.

Care and Maintenance
Long hair is a lot of work. It takes me an hour to wash and up to half an hour to comb out (when it’s really tangled; usually it’s more like 10-15 minutes). Thankfully I don’t have to wash it every day. This might sound gross to some of you, but I actually only have to wash it once every five to seven days. It just takes that long for the oils to work through it (I am lucky to have a less oily hair type). It usually takes several hours for my hair to air dry (I never use a blow dryer as that is very bad for hair).

I usually wear my hair up in a sort of bun to try to minimize breakage and tangling. The exception to this, of course, is the day after I’ve washed it and need it to air dry. I get a lot of questions as to why I don’t wear it down more often. If you’d ever tried to comb my hair out after a day of it being down, you’d know the answer. Even a day where I don’t do a lot can lead to matting and severe snarls. People handling my hair makes this so much worse and is one of the reasons I’m very twitch about it.

I prefer to use a comb to get the big tangles out, then a brush to smooth things out.

Random Factoids

-My hair holds a curl extremely well. That, in fact is the reason for my high school nickname: Fluffy. Mom misunderstood what I wanted to do with the curlers and left them in a little too long.

-I have gone to dartgun fights with my hair down. It has always been up by the end of the night. Peaking around corners and laying on the floor with long hair is a pain.

-I don’t know if it is the curious nature of my hair, or something else, but if I am wearing a sword and my hair down, my hair will inevitably wind itself around the hilt of my sword.

-My hair is worth several hundred dollars if I ever decided to sell it. Factors in this include that I’ve never died my hair, and don’t use damaging hair products on it. There is a lot of hair to sell, at least 18 inches, possibly up to 24. I have a more unique hair color.

-The first step in my apocalypse survival plan includes cutting my hair so it’s just long enough to put in a ponytail. I don’t know about you, but hair care is the LAST thing I want to be worrying about in case of an emergency.

-When putting your hair into elaborate designs, it is easier to handle if your hair is in need of a washing (I’m not talking dripping with oil, but a little oily is good).

If you have any questions about my hair, feel free to ask them in the comments.