Catching Those Stereotypes

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After months of exchanging short Facebook messages and reorganizing calendars, Kate and I got a chance to meet up on Sunday. As usual, our conversation eventually made its way around to writing. We’re both trying to hit the same deadline for the same anthology and we’re both in a hazy patch with our stories. It’s always a great idea to discuss the hazy patches with fellow writers!

While discussing my story, we kind of blazed past my hazy issue because another one came up: stereotypes.

The protagonist of my story is an emotionally scarred, insecure werewolf who happens to be in a relationship with a witch. Both are female. While telling Kate about them, the first words out of my mouth were, “she’s a lesbian werewolf with jealousy issues.” Kate simply turned her head and said, “Just be careful about the jealous lesbian stereotype.”

That kind of stopped me in my tracks, and I took a moment to think about my character. She’s not so much jealous as extremely insecure. And her issues stem from the werewolf bit, not her relationship status or sexual identity.

The thing is, I’ve only recently realized all that about her. I developed this character years ago for a different story, except now she’s the protagonist, not a sideline person. I had her backstory mostly figured out, and just a few months ago I sat down and wrote down each of my main character’s motivations for my current story because I was stuck.

On the surface, from my own notes, I’ve got a man-hating lesbian with violent tendencies who was constantly been misused by men. On the surface. I’m mad at myself. I’m annoyed that I fell into some easy LGBTQ+ stereotypes, but a lot of her personality comes from the werewolf part. However, people aren’t going to read it like that.

And that’s what’s dangerous.

Even before talking with Kate, I was having issues with my character. Her backstory wasn’t jiving. Things didn’t feel authentic or right. I realized she doesn’t hate men and she wouldn’t label herself as a lesbian. Yes, she’s been misused by men but that hasn’t made her any angrier than anyone else who’s been misused by others.

I need to be very careful in my story and make sure the proper dots are connected. Step one, learn what not to do:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/24/lesbian-stereotypes-_n_3808202.html;

http://flavorwire.com/400566/the-20-worst-depictions-of-lgbt-characters-on-film;

http://jezebel.com/5205953/pssst-the-girls-guide-to-lesbian-cliches–stereotypes;

http://www.gurl.com/2015/08/04/movies-with-lazy-lesbian-stereotypes/#1.

I could not believe some of these tropes! I am still a bit floored that the world sees people in this light. But the world sucks sometimes.

Step two, learn how others are doing it right:

http://www.sheknows.com/entertainment/articles/1103323/lesbian-stereotypes-rooney-mara-cate-blanchett-avoid-in-carol.

 

When it comes to writing marginalized characters it’s important to do your homework. I know that. I like to hope that I would have ditched the jealous bit and anything resembling stereotypes before submitting, but I’m happy to have been cautioned. Something was feeling off from the get-go and this may have been it.

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  1. I have unknowingly fallen into stereotypes at times. Realizing it or having it pointed out to me is never a good feeling, but it makes me learn so much more and pay that much more attention to everything I’m writing.

    1. I had one rather unpleasant experience where it was pointed out in a story and I am now hyper aware though I still fall into the trap. I never want to experience that moment again. I agree with you though, being corrected is the only way to grow.

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