(pʰlɹts ʼɡlɹb) n. home
These are some of my girl rules when regarding and writing female characters:
- Girls have authority. Show leaders that are female and show leaders that aren’t female taking advice from women and girls. Every other piece of media and the world around us is sure to impress that girls don’t have authority- we don’t need it in media we create.
- Girls are subject to reality. There are enormous expectations on girls every day in every way, but our media tends to omit everything but an image of what girls ‘should’ be. For every beauty queen, there is their time spent and money devoted to makeup and clothes. For every lifestyle, there is the support of said lifestyle. Girls have homes, have chores, have jobs, have families, have triumphed, and have made mistakes. They pay understandable penalties for their actions, and enjoy success as applicable. They have a context just like male characters and we need to show it, because for some reason in much of our media girls seem to emerge from the ether fully formed, fit, toned, shaved, styled, with money in a wallet, super awesome karate powers, nice clothes— and no shown lifestyle or background to support it.
- Girls defy gendered expectations. In light of the above, we also have to identify what actually isn’t ‘reality,’ but society and what we feel is normal but is not set in stone. Girls can have any job and any background boys can, can look the same or have the same body type as any boy can, can perform any feat a boy can. There are female firefighters and female wrestlers and female loggers and female construction workers— and they are just as good at their jobs whether or not they have the same body type as their male peers. I don’t want to see any more women put on a cool crime fighting team and said ‘well they can be the spy or the scout because women are smaller than the muscular men.’ Women don’t have to be small, spies can be large, and a small woman can use her body to achieve the same results as a male bruiser. The same goes with women in any other profession- what qualities aren’t actually reality, but are just our expectations?
- Girls define themselves. In our culture, femininity is often perceived as a lack of, or a contrast to, masculinity— but this is a terrible idea and renders female characters dependant on male ones to have an identity. If a character says she’s a girl, no matter what she looks like, sounds like, seems like, she is a girl, and her traits are traits that belong to a girl. We can categorize traits as traditionally typical for cis males and cis females (‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’) but traits that belong to a character, are the property of that character. Girl power is just as much butch as it is hard femme. Girls define themselves, and are not to be defined by others.
- Girls have agency. Girls want stuff, and girls get stuff. They aren’t along for the ride, or are just one of a set: they have their own strong opinions and motivations for their actions. They’re able to decide what they want and to change their situation without judgement or being thought of as ‘inconvenient’ or ‘a nuisance’ by others. If they need something, they should be allowed to seek it or ask for it or even demand it, without being considered a burden. Girls can say ‘no’ to anything, at any time, and not have that be taken as a reflection of their worth, or an opinion to be persuaded.
- Girls are not mysterious. There is nothing mystical or wondrous about femininity. It is an identity. Girls do not act in ‘mysterious’ ways, there is no ‘female intuition,’ and women are not ‘impossible’ or ‘unfathomable’ or more difficult than men are. When we respect the ideas, the feelings, the speech, and the motivations of others, these ‘mysteries’ of women vanish entirely: a falsehood enforced by male privilege not understanding that women face different realities, implications, and social problems than men. We shouldn’t enforce a ‘mysterious’ or ‘mystical’ or ‘special’ femininity in our media, either- women are half the human population, not puzzles or unicorns.
- Girls are not tools. No plot should depend on someone being female. A female character can have something depend on her abilities (a cis woman’s ability to bear a child, for instance) but that says nothing about her femininity- no more than her ability to win a tournament or lead an army.
- Girls are not limited in their interactions. Girls talk with girls about anything they want. Girls talk with boys about anything they want. Girls talk with anybody of any gender or lack thereof about anything they want. They are not merely conjured up when they have something only the designated girl can say, or when they plot demands girly things. There’s no reason for girls not to be present at all times, involved in any conversations nearby. They don’t go on a shelf while others are talking.
- Girls are fun. They’re fun to be around, are interesting, are clever, are animated, and they have a lot to say that’s both meaningful and entertaining. Too often female characters and their arcs are more detailed, yet also more ‘serious’ or ‘tragic’ than the arcs of some of their peers. Often this seriousness has to do with a male character’s influence, arc, or demise. No thanks!
Of course, these rules apply to any gender, and nongendered individuals too. But female characters are often denied these things in media that we both consume, and media we personally create. Coded cis male characters do these things constantly, at length. Non-males? Not so much.
EDIT: I forgot a rule. It’s here.
I like this a lot because it’s actually great writing advice for any character. I especially like the “girls are subject to reality” one. That’s actually really important and also not something you hear about so much.
From issue #33, my favorite Deadpool story arc.
This is what ‘Pool is. He’s not just “chimichanga fourth wall crazy lol”. He’s a bad person trying to be a good person, who’s really screwed-up mentally, has all sorts of crap thrown at him every day, and has a bizarre sense of humor to deal with it.
"The person is awesome, but I cannot tell you who it is. The person walked into the trailer and I [screamed] and I started freaking out and I jumped on the person, and I didn’t know them and then I was like, ‘I saw you driving once,’ and then that person got a little weirded out. Our fans particularly will like a certain guest star that is coming up soon."
I’m still a little disappointed that Buffy didn’t graduate college.
It’s tragic, but it makes sense. I think that was a good story choice.