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Is there a gender point of view?

gender-in-writingA couple of days ago I finished the draft of my sixth Carlos McCrary novel McCrary’s Justice. In it, I wrote several chapters from the POV (point of view) of the girlfriend (later fiancé) of Carlos McCrary. Since I have never written from the POV of a woman, I asked several of my writer friends (most of whom were female) to read the chapters and call to my attention any glaring errors.

David Bishop, www.davidbishopbooks.com, sent me what I can only describe as an essay on gender in writing:

“Two things without even reading the pages.

“First, I am not qualified to read and comment on anything from the female POV—I’m male.

“Second, I don’t accept there is any such thing as a female POV. To accept there is, even in theory, implies the acceptance that there is a singular female POV. If there was, it means that each female thinks, decides, and acts in the same manner as all other females. If this is not true, then there is no female POV.

“In my life (my only arena of knowledge) I have found women to have as varied and diverse a POV as do men. We sometimes hear and read (in reviews sometimes) that the author has or has not captured the women’s POV. For me this means, that the individual woman writing that comment finds what she read to be inconsistent with how she individually would act or react to the stimulus that exists in the story. That woman thereby aggrandizes her POV on whatever as the POV of women.

“For me, the relevant question is: Could a woman (not any individual one or even a majority of women) behave in the manner the fictional female character behaves in the story? If the answer is yes, then what the author has that woman character do is plausible.  If the answer is no, then the author has written a character who fails in believability–whether that character is female or male.

“My view is: Women are diverse, so don’t get bogged down in the limitation of some fantasy about an overriding women’s POV. Some ladies have sex on the first date, others are nuns. Some ladies scream at a shadow, while others kick the guy in the nuts and slap him silly. Some women work as teachers, while others have sex with their underage students. Others drive a 16-wheeler on the open road rather than wait tables at Denny’s. Some use the “F” word and some don’t. Etc.

“Write your women to be plausible. Could a woman act as your fictional one does? If yes, write it as such. Do that convincingly and most readers, male and female, will accept it. Those who will be critical because they have prescribed for all fictional woman a single POV–which always ends up being their individual POV–well, those folks will be critical of your/my/any author’s POV for females that clash with their own personal POV on whatever subject.

“For further comments, if desired, try female writers or female readers–which might be the better source to begin with. Ask them if they found the behavior of X female in the story to be within the realm of plausible female behavior. Putting it in those terms should let them know you aren’t asking if they endorse that behavior or would behave the same way. The core question is: Can they envision a woman doing whatever your fictional character did?

“I have every one of my stories read by three or four women before I consider them final manuscripts. Their backgrounds are quite different and they do it wonderfully. My stories always benefit from their input.

“Hoped this helped.”

Yes, David, it helped a great deal.

Judi Ciance, author of the Casey Quinby mysteries, was tied up for a couple of weeks. Nevertheless, she took the time to email me back:

“You don’t have to think as a woman per se; think like the character you’re creating. This might be hard, and it might take several rewrites. You remember my Doll Murders. The main character is Detective Mike Mastro. I try to think and act like his character would, to use a voice he and his environment would expect. If that requires edgy language, then so be it. My book isn’t fluff; it’s about a serial murderer, so Detective Mastro isn’t going to be a Casey Quinby type. I suggest you look at some books written by women whose main character(s) are men. But because of the violence you depict, make sure you select an author who writes along the same lines.”

Well said, Judi.

What do you think? Is there a distinct “women’s point of view”?