Skip to main content

Unpopular opinion: Men don't like to read because of how they're presented in modern fiction

I've had several men compliment me on how I write the male characters in my books. Not just the way they speak, but the way they think.

I never gave it much thought, as I don't spend my time on Twitter and thus miss a lot of the "cultural debate" going on right now about men and how they are portrayed in fiction. But then I read The Good Daughter by Karen Slaughter and I saw exactly what people are talking about when they say men are being misrepresented in modern fiction.

I wrote a brief review of the book on Goodreads, but in a nutshell,  every single cis-gendered male in the book was violent, insecure, cruel, and unfaithful to their long-suffering wives/girlfriends. The only exception to this rule was the protagonists' father. He was obsessed with his job of defending the guilty from the predations of the far-worse criminal justice system and played a subordinate role to his brilliant, yet cold wife.  All of these characters were met with squeals of approval from mainstream reviewers with the words "feminist" and "representation" being common. There's only one problem: none of it was real.

Kind, mild-mannered subordinate men do not suddenly turn into fist-throwing badasses when the women in the story require it. Likewise, a police officer who protects his community, is loving toward his family, and willingly puts his life in danger does not suddenly turn into a shaking, homicidal basket case when confronted by a disarmed, female, teenage, school shooter.  People can behave one way in public and another in private, true. But there are certain behaviors that just don't go together.

It seems most women today don't know men as they are; they only know how men present themselves when in the presence of women. Or worse, they only know how men are portrayed in film and books, which is so often terribly wrong. And it could be dangerous to women. I had the extraordinary privilege to see men in "their native state," something that (I think) has protected me from stumbling into danger.

When I was seventeen, I joined the Marines. It was there I met men, my own age and older, who openly said women should not be allowed in combat roles. Some (very few) even said women should not work at all. And all of them--Christian, Athiest, White, Black, Hispanic, poor, middle class, mean, and nice--believed and said out loud that women wore clothing specifically to signal their intentions to the men around them and that women who go into a man's room want sex, even if she says otherwise.

Depending on your politics, you may describe these attitudes as misogynist or toxic. Which is why no man has ever dared utter these thoughts in front of you. But they're there... right there in his head.

I bristled at these backward opinions. I railed against them. Still do. But I noticed something. The men who said these things weren't the ones who were arrested for harming their girlfriends or for sexually assaulting one of the local girls. They were disciplined for drinking underage or for getting into fights with other men. But that's it.

One of the "toxic misogynists" discovered me terribly drunk outside the barracks, afraid to go inside lest the desk sergeant report me. This guy picked me up and carried me like his bride up four flights of side stairs, had another man open the emergency door, and deposited me in my bed, under the covers, then locked my door as he left. This was the same man who told me I didn't belong in the Marines because of my gender and that motherhood was my true calling. He was wrong about that, but he was still a good man, one who protected me for no other reason than I needed it.

Contrast that with the phenomenon of the male feminist ally. The one who says women should speak first at all gatherings and males are not entitled to opinions on certain issues. Either this man is a liar with plans to find a feminist sex partner or he is a sad person who is deeply uncomfortable in his own skin. Neither of these scenarios speaks well of him. And I don't think anyone is surprised to see the multitude of headlines about these types of men being accused of rape, assault, and other immoral manipulations of women.

Modern women are taught by the media to scan their interactions with men for the right "woke" buzzwords to determine if he is an "ally." They're not taught to study behavior, to watch for a misalignment between the man's words and actions, to thoughtfully assess his intentions. This is revealed in books of all kinds, but especially YA. Often I can't even read YA books because it's clear the author has never even been in the room with a male. How could she have when this fictional male creature in no way resembles a real live man?

Setting up these false expectations is both damaging to men and dangerous to women. You might think a man is an asshole because he thinks wearing leggings as pants is inappropriate. But that's not the same as being dangerous to you.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

On Psychopaths - Part 2 of my Daredevil Review

I will start this review with a mandatory disclosure: I love me some Vinnie D. That's Vincent D'Onofrio to you normal folks. I love him in everything he has ever done. I loved him as the sweet yet prideful young man in Mystic Pizza, I loved him in his small role as "Thor" in Adventures of Babysitting, I loved him when he wore an Edgar suit in Men in Black, and I loved him the mostest in Law & Order: Criminal Intent. So while I'll be telling you the strengths and weaknesses of the show, don't be concerned when I seem to love the villain more than the hero.

Though Kingpin AKA Wilson Fisk had a small cameo in the Defenders, Season 3 of Daredevil marked his triumphant return to the status of Big Bad. And make no mistake, Wilson Fisk is as Big and Bad as they come. Obey him or he will kill you. Though he might kill you even if you do obey him. Hypothetically, he might savagely crush your head in if you are simply the bearer of bad news. Hypothetically.

Though…

On Faith - Part One of my Daredevil Review

"I would rather die as Daredevil than live as Matt Murdock."

As I mentioned in my review of Daredevil Season 2,  I love this show, so I didn't want to simply write another review. Instead, I chose to write three articles on what I saw as the three main strengths of this season: its honest depiction or faith and the struggles of mere mortals to live it; the effects of psychopathy and the morality of treating people who have it; and the ability of friendships to fill the hole left by a missing family. In my Season 2 review, I mentioned how the show's writers have stayed true to the spirit of the comic in their characters, in the actors they cast, and the direction of the plot. Season 3 begins with another strong and unapologetic nod to the original comic: its focus on Matt's faith, or in this case, his loss of it.

In the last episode of The Defenders, a building fell directly on top of Matt Murdock, AKA Daredevil, as well as Elektra, the love of his life whose sou…

Review of the Demon Cycle Series: When Ideology Ruins a Good Story

A world once modern and learned condemned to repeat the dark ages after demons rise from the earth's core every night to feast on humans.

Peter V. Brett starts off the Demon Cycle series in a single small town and grows to world-size proportions. Frankly, it's a master class in high fantasy world-building. It's never explicitly said in the books, but I think the Demon Cycle series takes place in our own distant future—after all our technology failed us in the face of demons. It's that subtlety of world building and the intricacy of plot that makes the Demon Cycle books so outstanding... at least the first three.

Because I love this world and these characters so much, I became truly angry with the direction the series took and my perception of why the author made these choices. As with all my reviews, there will be spoilers, but nothing that should prevent you from reading these books. Your life will be better for it, even with its flaws.

The Warded Man: The Warded Man …