I think of a man, and take away reason and accountability.
Jack Nicholson, As Good As It Gets
I’ve had dozens of moments when I’m reading an otherwise great book and a woman says something, or does something, that jolts me out of the world I’ve been inhabiting and reminds me that the author has his own particular notions of women, and not necessarily correct ones. From female characters who fulfill some male fantasy of what women should be like (hot, mostly), or who have no depth at all beyond their looks, to those who have one highly stereotypical personality trait whereas male characters are fully-rounded: the sins committed by authors of all stripes against female characterization are varied, and unfortunately, still frequent.
Sometimes it seems that the feminist internet has rightly given up on even encouraging men to write women at all; if we want a great female character, we assume we’ll need to read Chimamanda Adichie, Willa Cather, Claire Messud. But every once in awhile, a gifted male writer will come along who has an understanding of the unique power structures that affect women, but also is capable of infusing the same vision of humanity into his female characters as he does into his male characters. Here are a few of my favorite female characters written by men. Comment below to share your favorites! (Or to rant about the worst failures. We love rants here at Adversion.)
Aaliyah Saleh, An Unnecessary Woman – Rabih Alameddine
The inspiration for this post, Aaliyeh is the mid-seventies woman with blue hair who narrates Rabih Alameddine’s novel.