{DISCUSSION} Gender Double-Standards

Don’t you think it’s time we level the playing field?

Gender double standards exist everywhere, in real life and in literature. This goes back to history and culture where women were the submissive, docile, weak property of strong, powerful, dominant men. Yet, even as this changes in real life, it seems to continue on in modern literature(historical fiction is a different subject that we won’t get into today.) Why? Why is it so hard for writers to branch out into unchartered territory with their characters?

I will admit that writers are trying. Two weeks ago we discussed ‘strong’ female characters and how this was becoming a flawed stereotype. This is what I mean by ‘trying’. Authors are starting to notice the gender double standards, but we still have along way to go.

Yet, females weren’t the only thing discussioners wanted to talk about. A few of them threw the conversation onto male characters and how they were stereotyped and shoved into a perfect mold, but we don’t talk about it as much. This is a perfect example of a gender double-standard. Now let’s talk about them a little more.

Two Way Street

First thing we absolutely have to note whether you like it or not: double standards go both ways. They exist for both male and female characters. Sometimes this is easy to overlook because so much of the conversation is driven in the feminine direction. (No doubt because so many young readers  who are active in discussions are female. Also, many protagonists nowadays are female.) For this reason, it’s natural to focus on the cliches and stereotypes of females, but they’re not alone. Male characters are being forced into a mold, too.

Male Double-Standards

1) Weaknesses

There are plenty of characteristics that are considered ‘okay’ for female characters, but often not for male characters. For example: weaknesses. This is a very broad category. Weaknesses can be physical, mental, or emotional and history has made them far more common in female characters vs male characters. As a result, male characters who are sensitive, emotional, or empathetic, are very few and far between.

2) Love Interests

The most obvious example of this gender double-standard is in the love interest of female characters. The male love interest is tall, athletic, confident, often heroic. While it may exist, the non-stereotypical male love interest is hard to find under all the other beefy males, which is a shame. A male love interest with a little more brain and a little less brawn would be a far more interesting plot opener. Not to mention, not every man in the world is the stereotype. Plenty of non-athletic, intelligent, geeky, shy men are the love interests of women in real life. So, why aren’t they in books, too?

Female Double-Standards

1) Sexual Relations

This is a common topic among readers because it’s a double-standard prevalent both inside and out of books and many people still uphold it today. They believe it’s okay for a man to be sexually active before marriage, but not a woman. If a man is sexually active he’s ‘experienced’. If a woman’s sexually active she’s a ‘whore’.

This is garbage.

It’s the biggest double standard still in existence. People know it exists, they understand that it’s wrong and yet countless female characters are still virgins throughout the entire series. And it’s not like they don’t have opportunities. The females in question often have a love interest right by their sides through a good two-thirds of the series, but nothing happens. Why? Explain this to me because I don’t get it.

2) Dominance/Confidence

This particular category makes me laugh. Plain out, full-hearted laugh because while people say they want strong, confident, dominant women, they do an about-face when they actually get it! Don’t believe me? Keep reading.

Example 1(movie format): Miranda Priestly in ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ is the head of a fashion magazine with a demanding work environment, high expectations, and settles for nothing short of perfection. Andy, her secretary, says, “If [Miranda Priestly] were a man, the only thing people would talk about is how good she is at her job.”

Example 2(book format): Hermione in ‘Harry Potter’ is extremely smart. She knows a lot about magic and even corrects Ron in Transfiguration class, but they only thing people see is how she’s a know-it-all and bossy.

Shall I continue or are your minds satisfyingly satiated? o.O

Bomb Them, Banish Them, Float Them

Don’t get me wrong. We as readers have noticed these double standards and it’s because of our voices that writers are starting to make some changes, but we aren’t there yet. Equality for males and females in books isn’t here yet. We as readers need to keep discussing, keep pushing, keep nagging because if it’s important enough for us to talk about, it’s important enough for writers to fix.

What do you think about gender double-standards in books?
Tell me your opinion in the comments below!

And check out my discussion from last week:
Weak vs. Weakly-Written Characters

27 thoughts on “{DISCUSSION} Gender Double-Standards”

  1. I am soooo interested in sci-fi but these days it’s mostly TV and movies. To be honest, I haven’t read a full sci-fi book in quite a while. But I’m thinking, well, it’s still a script behind what the characters are saying. So I hope you don’t mind my obs.

    12 Monkeys TV show. I’m assuming you’ve seen some of it, being a sci-fi person. So… Jones to me was a fascinating character. She had light and dark sides. Moments of nuttiness. Also genius. Same thing with Cassie. She starts out as the traditional empathetic, all understanding and supportive woman. But once she actually lives in the hellish future, she turns into a wretch. I really liked that, even though I didn’t like her change. Toward the end, well, I wont spoil it in case you or others haven’t seen the entire series 1 – 2. But there is some balancing.

    So maybe TV scripts are slightly ahead of the curve?

    I also wrote an unpub. novel about an older time traveling guy (Louis) who falls for a younger woman (Stella), and vice versa. Your entry here made me think… ‘Oh God, my script is so traditional.’ It’s always an older guy nabbing the younger gal. But then again, the woman is strong and he’s sort of neither here nor there. So maybe there’s hope for it… 🙂


    1. I know. We’re picky readers, aren’t we? We say we don’t want the damsel-in-distress, but then we don’t like how many strong females there are. It’s all about balance. And likely even when you find it, people will complain. :/ You gotta find what works best for you and for the story. That’s all we can really ask for, isn’t it?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Very true, but I just write what feels ‘right’ for the story and hope the readers concur at the end. For me that means more balanced personalities that strike me as how people would react to things. No stereotypical tropes to ruin things. I try to ensure that they’d act as close to what we’d call ‘normal’ as their situation dictates. Futuristic genetically enhanced soldiers WOULD seem like tropes by modern standards BUT it would be understandable in context. Make sense?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I feel like this isn’t the discussion point you were hoping for (so forgive me, please!), but this kind of made me think a lot about The Hunger Games and the differences between Peta and Gale.
    I (and please don’t hate me for it) preferred Peta. I thought Peta was the better man, and the right choice. Yes, he was more emotional. But he cared. Gale waited until AFTER Katniss had been in the Games to do anything, to say anything, and I really felt that was unfair. I get that he fell for her before, but why didn’t he act? He said he fell for her months before anything, but he never even hinted. He could have.
    Peta was never anything but honest, kind and caring. And Katniss perceived him to be weak – she mentions it so many times.
    However, his honesty, his kindness, his ability to care, his selflessness … he was better than everyone. Than all of them. Haymitch was right – Katniss didn’t deserve Peta. She could live a million lifetimes and still not be worthy of that man.
    Whatever Peta’s perceived ‘weaknesses’ were, made him a better man to me. He was stronger than Gale, in my opinion. I know it was presented differently through Katniss’ thoughts – and maybe even the movies – but it’s not how I saw it.
    Peta was relatable. Gale … less so. I don’t know. Does any of this make sense??

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Bahaha! No forgiveness needed. I like that your mind went off on a tangent. It’s fascinating to me! ^.^ And it opens up another door for discussion. (P.s. What are your thoughts on specific series discussions, such as HG or something? I might do that later on, but only if it would bring people in.)

      Ah! Peeta the weak boy because he’s caring. Yes, that fits exactly what we are talking about here. (That and Katniss has no sensitive side because she’s too dominant. >.> Side tangent.)

      I was a Gale fan in book 1, but by book 2 I was totally team Peeta, as well. He is the better man. Despite all the darkness and chaos in their lives he remains good. He knows how to play the game, don’t get me wrong. He ain’t no saint, but he isn’t afraid to be the sensitive guy, which is blatantly showed during the live interviews in book 1 when he admits to being in love with Katniss. (which we all know was true from the start.)

      Gale… Gale is too one-minded in all honesty. He’s all ‘survival’ just like Katniss, which is why the two of them click, but that’s all he’s capable of. Even when he suddenly starts going for Katniss it never really seems real, like he’s always got something else on his mind, you know? Gale is too distant a character to be relatable and likable. He’s kind of your stereotypical ‘hero’. Boring!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I so, so agree! And yeah, I’d definitely be a fan of discussing reading books! I know I’m new to your page but I love these discussions so far (and I’m such a big fan of Rae’s from Bookmark Chronicles, too!). Basically, I just like talking about books and characters and everything.
        I think Peeta was such a diverse character, and you’re so right – Gale was very one-minded! Out of the three of them, Peeta was the best. Gale kind of reminded me of the Capital people by the end – he was so determined to kill others and everything to win the war. Beattie seemed to get it – that they needed to survive together.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yay! It may be a few months before I do actual book-specific discussions (because I have like… 3 months worth of discussions planned already. >.> isn’t totally obsessed with these at all) But that gives me some more opportunities and I’m soooo happy you found my blog and decided to join the discussions! Your point of view has been wonderful and I love discussing with you on your blog, too. You pick very unique topics. ^.^

          Huh. I never thought of Gale being Capitol by the end, but you’re right. He really was. But the truth is you have to pick the lesser of two evils. There is no Utopia. So, who’s worse? Snow or Coin?

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I’m so glad you like it!!! I really enjoy it!!
            In all honesty, I think Coin was how Snow was in the beginning. I think she was no different. The only difference would be that she’d favour those with her. Those against her, on the other hand …
            I’m glad Katniss killed Coin. I’m glad the people got to vote. I think if Coin remained in charge, she’d have followed Snow’s footsteps and made the same mistakes.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Well, Coin did suggest having another Hunger Games. How much more Snow can you get? And it’s hypothesized that Coin was planning to have Katniss killed as a martyr because she was too reckless to be trusted. :/ So…
              But that is an interesting hypothesis about Coin being an early version of Snow. It makes me really want to read/write backgrounds for them. :p

              Liked by 1 person

              1. I know!!! It’s the same with HP. I want to know everything. Part of my favourite parts of the novels were the background stories (and I love seeking them out online).
                I agree. I think she would’ve started at one, and like the Capitol, the Districts would have wanted it to continue. She would’ve done the same.

                Liked by 1 person

    2. Absolutely agree!!! I took the angst there as more of a demonstration of Katniss being mentally unstable. Just another way to look at it, but I too preferred Peta. Now I want a sandwich, a nice lovely pita sandwich.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Well, I mean Katniss was unstable in book three. Jeez! She went through the Hunger Games twice. Watched people die whom she cared about. Murdered people. Had the only man who actually ever cared about her suddenly try to kill her. It’s a lot to take in. (Hope you read/watched the series because that was a spoiler.) I understand her mental breakdown. However, I don’t respect the linger of it throughout all of book 3. It was a bit much especially since she still had her little sister to live for… for you know… a while. >.>

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Didn’t remember her sister dying… but it’s been awhile since I read the series. And yes, in book three we understood but her stability struck me as,… ‘off’…. throughout the entire series. Call me heartless, but I wasn’t so engrossed in the world that the thought of Madame Everdeen dying bugged me. She struck me as a bit, I dunno, flat.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Mm. What it comes down to is the fact that she wasn’t a fully fleshed out character. She was too focused, too one-minded, which is impossible frankly. She may be able to focus for long periods of time, but her mind never wanders. She never thinks about anything else besides survival and it really does come off as flat because there is no depth.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. This is always an interesting topic, I like how you’ve covered the male stereotype as well. One thing I will say is that there are these days both dominant and submissive women out there that are equally happy in their roles, as well as the others in between.
    It’s the same with men, but with writing and stories surely it’s not just about stereotypes, but it’s the story in the writers mind and we both know that as writers we exaggerate everything to make it more interesting?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I will agree with you that it is a writer’s job to make things more interesting and yet many writers seem to be following the same trends. Is there something wrong with branching out and trying new types of characters? Do readers really want to read the same story over and over again? Because that’s how it feels to me when writers follow the stereotypes.

      I am fine with there being a variety of women and men in stories. In fact, I want there to be a variety. Yet, the problem we’re facing is that certain varieties are being classified as ‘typical’ and often times they have negative connotations. I want to rid literature of these ‘negative’ connotations. A dominant woman can be nice, not bitchy. A sensitive man can be strong, not weak. Is that too much to ask of writers?

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Yay! That is what these discussions are all about: bringing awareness to writers about the lack of balance in character representations in fiction. ^.^ (And they’re fun. :p)

          So happy you joined the discussion, Simon! I hope to see you in a future discussion, too! (every Thursday, FYI :p)

          Liked by 2 people

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