Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Men in Drag

I have a story in my head that wants to come out. There are quite a few bashing about in my head, but this one is being the most aggressive in its attempts to get my attention. I've been resisting it, holding it back. Why? Because the main protagonists in it are all women.

Writing women as a male writer is something I'm always worried about. I don't want them to come across as men in drag. The story that wants to be written is about three very strong women, but all of them flawed. I've come to know the three of them rather well, as they fight to get out of my head and onto the page. I know what they like, dislike, read, watch, eat, and do for fun. I know very intimate details about each one, including things they would never tell another soul.

I think they're well-developed characters, but there's a nagging voice inside my head that tells me that there's a problem. They are all very sexy women who take off their clothes on stage.

Comics are a male domain for the most part. Many comics feature attractive females in skin-tight outfits with gravity-defying breasts for the simple reason that males, in particular boys, like looking at pictures of these women. If I write this story, and by some miracle it gets drawn and published, is anyone going to notice the writing, or will it just be fodder for young boys to use under the blankets at night with a torch? Will anyone notice how well-rounded the personalities of the women are if their physical assets are also well-rounded?

By its very nature the story does contain 'sexiness'. There are scenes in my head that are rather provocative. Am I wanting to write this story to please the teenage boy that still lives inside of me, clutching his torch tight to his chest? Is that a bad thing? Can I then justify it by adding a veneer of characterization and sophistication over the sexiness?

Am I just trying to stop myself writing by over-rationalizing? Or do I just think too much?

Art copyright Simon Morse


  1. Yes you do think too much, but what you're thinking about is interesting - you're acknowledging the biases we all have, whether we want to admit them or not, and then seeing whether these mental straitjackets are necessary or not.

    Various questions that come to mind...

    Is their being strippers integral to the plot? Or are you typecasting your female characters to only play one of the few archtypes that seem to be available for women characters (prostitute, mother, virgin,...)?

    How would their story go if you wrote for a female audience? How would your story go if you wrote it for "people" rather than targeting a gender?

    Does their story need to be a comic strip?

    Ultimately, even if it is a comic strip about 3 strippers, if the women have personalities, it's an improvement. It's probably a step up if a teenage boy is abusing himself with an image of a woman that is more well-rounded than just her chest.

    I'm sure Em has a few opinions about this topic too!



    P.S. You know I've always thought you've been well intune with your feminine side, so I think you're perfectly able to write realistic female characters. I'm happy to give you specific feedback if you want.

    P.P.S. The xkcd comic strip has wonderful female characters. And they're all just stick figures.

    P.P.P.S. And what was Simon on when he drew that picture above. Ye gads!!

    P.P.P.P.S. Yes I'll shut up now. You can tell I'm procrastinating about writing too!

  2. The three women are burlesque dancers, and are not usually explicit in their stage show, but the are provocative.

    Yes, their job is closely intertwined with the rest of the comic.

    It needs to be a comic script, because that's what I'm writing, and the story is quite 'comic-bookey'

    The pic is a pencil panel from episode 5 of Straitjacket Ninja, which I used because it is a man-in-drag.

  3. Was just reading this article and thought of your story - you might find it interesting as it gives a good insight into the thoughts of a young woman who was a burlesque dancer.