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Why Are We So Hard on Other Women?

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Generally speaking, women are judged harshly by other women and men are offered far more lenience. I submit this is for two reasons. Wanting to be in control of a woman’s own outcome and familiarity leading to contempt.

Wanting to be in control of one’s own outcome

One type of case I tried in private practice was the misdiagnosed breast cancer case. When we first started trying these cases, the common wisdom was to get a juror who identified with your client. So around the country, lawyers would try to end up with a jury weighted with women the same age, demographic, ethnic background as their client. And around the country, these cases would be lost time and again.

Juror consultants, psychologists, forensic anthropologists were pulled in to conduct focus group after focus group and we learned one thing. The worst juror for your client was one who identified with her.

The takeaway may be that women are harder on other women; that they refuse to cut other women slack; that they kind of hate women out of jealousy.

But the reason that the worst juror for our young moms with missed diagnosis was another young mom wasn’t that she disliked our client, but that she identified too closely with her.  The female juror would not want the negative end result to happen to her and thus she couldn’t allow herself to find that there were mistakes made in the medical profession. That would make the world too dangerous for her, too out of control for her.  So she would impose sometimes impossible expectations on the client. If the client had only gotten one opinion, she should have gotten two. If the client had gotten a second opinion, she should have gotten three.

The onus was on the client to discover her own cancer (that even her doctor had missed) because that was the only way the female juror maintained control over her world.

I recall these lessons every time I would come across the victim blaming that occurred for girls who got raped. For instance, the young woman from Stuebenville.  There was many a person, man and woman, who found that the victim should have prevented herself from being raped.  The men say this for the same reason that women do – for emotional distance.  Men might be afraid that they have done something offensive in the past. Oh, not raped a girl but taken advantage of her when she was drunk or maybe even wanted to.  Women want to believe that so long as they don’t place themselves in the same situation as the victim, they can avoid bad things happening to her.

When it comes to romance books, if some female character does something that nets a bad result, we are impatient with her because we hope that in her circumstances, we would have made other choices to effectuate a different outcome.

Familiarity breeds contempt.

There is a psychological maxim that is the opposite of what happens in the first example and that is the more you know about someone, the more that you like them so long as they have interests and beliefs similar to your own.  But some studies have shown that the more information you know about someone else, the less you like them.  In Less Is More, Dan Airely of MIT along with two others, presented a study that suggested the more information received about a person, the less that you like them.

Benjamin Franklin proposed that fish and visitors have something in common: Both begin to stink after 3 days. The present
research offers empirical support for Franklin’s quip. The more people learn about others—and anyone who has had houseguests
knows all too well how much one can come to know in a short time—the less they like them, on average.

Women start out “knowing” women intimately. Men are far more ambiguous and therefore are still mysterious wondrous creatures.  Women, because most of us are women, view the female characters with a jaundiced eye, perhaps already pre-judging them before the book is even opened.

In the most recent release of Kristen Ashley’s book, Fire Inside, Lainie is described as someone who’d “create a scene when the diet cherry 7Up she was pouring fizzed over the top of the glass.”  To me that is hilarious. I don’t really have anyone in my life on a day to day basis that would be upset about the way her soda is poured so I found Lainie endlessly entertaining.  I know a lot about lawyers, however, and I have expectations for how both genders should and should not act and I judge them according to my own standards.

We are sensitive to how these characters are portrayed and how their portrayal reflects back on us.  Thus a TSTL heroine reinforces certain negative gender stereotypes that we chafe against.

The extreme romances that Robin wrote about a few weeks ago work so well for me because the characters are often bordering on caricature.  While relatable in many ways, they are still awfully foreign and their ambiguous nature leads me to like them for their “quirkiness” or, in other words, behaviors about which I am not entirely familiar.  Within the confines of a motorcycle club or a werewolf pack, different attitudes  and decisions make sense within that particular paradigm whereas they may not if executed by a person in a different, more normal circumstance.

Psychologically, negative outcomes are more powerful than positive ones and thus the negative feelings a character engenders will overpower the positive ones.  Yes, we are harder on female characters.  We shouldn’t be, but we are.  These are just a couple of reasons why I think we are harder on our female characters than the male ones.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

57 Comments

  1. Michelle
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 07:07:10

    I like to think of women as intelligent and capable people, so I admit when I find otherwise it does irritate me. In my professional life I am more disgusted when a woman is incompetent than a man. Anyone else reminded of Big Bang’s Sheldon’s statement: “don’t cry because you’re stupid, I cry because other people are stupid”.

  2. Selma
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 07:46:23

    Some really interesting thoughts!

    I think there’s another thing that contributes heavily, and that is the fact that society as a whole is very hard on women. Take these op-eds we’ve been seeing recently about women having casual sex in college: would we ever see op-eds about what men “risk giving up” and “if it’s alright” for them to have casual sex? No, of course not. But we live in a sexist society, and therefore women are subject to more scrutiny than men as a whole. And it’s very hard to escape the cultural perspective that you grow up with. So I think women are more likely to judge women harshly simply because they are taught from a young age that women should not display a huge variety of behaviors, but aren’t taught to hold men to those same standards.

  3. Maili
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 07:59:32

    This is a topic close to my heart. Here goes. I get frustrated and occasionally upset when authors start their heroines out as decisive, highly skilled, intelligent and an all-rounder, and all these trait disappear the moment heroes enter the picture.

    Those heroes constantly overrule heroines’ decisions, even in the cases when heroines are supposed to be their superiors, or heroines inexplicably become the opposite of what they were. She will either be so distracted by the hero’s body, looks or whatnot that she couldn’t do her job, or become “stubbornly independent”. Translation: ignore a warning and run into a dangerous situation, leaving the hero to rescue her. And often, this happens again and again and again until she becomes the champion of TSTL heroines. (Don’t get me start on why only heroines get called TSTL.)

    It is as if these authors decide that those heroines cannot ever be stronger or equal to heroes. I don’t understand that kind of thinking. I really don’t. Some say it’s all about masculinity and femininity and blah blah. Why does it have to be at heroine’s expense, though? One reader had suggested that most romance readers read romance for the heroes only, not the heroines. If that’s true, then I’m an outlier.

    I’ve also admitted in reader discussions that I don’t understand why some readers have to be harder on heroines than heroes. It confuses me that these readers (and reviewers) let heroes off the hook on the very things they attack heroines for. If he’s cold to people around him, that’s OK because he must have a terrible childhood. If she’s cold to people around her, she’s a bitch who needs to be taken down a peg or two. I didn’t get this. And still don’t. It also frustrates me that in most cases, heroes can be flawed while heroines can’t. If she’s flawed, she has to have a Very Good Reason to be. It can be any but rape because it’s preferable that she’s still a virgin or VI (Very Inexperienced) when she meets the hero.

    I also don’t understand the “He’s only a guy” mentality to explain or justify his bad behaviour. In Suzanne Robinson’s historical romance Lady Gallant, for instance, the hero has been unfaithful to the heroine (a.k.a. Mousy Nora, who’s painfully shy and socially awkward), who finds out. She punishes him the only way she knows how. He doesn’t like it, but he thinks her reaction is hilarious. So he decides to ride through the punishment as he doesn’t think Mousy Nora could stand up to him that long. Alas, she proves him wrong. He finally cracks, and grovels for her forgiveness. She eventually does. The HEA.

    In discussions, readers were divided into two camps. One camp stated that Nora was right to push him to a wall until she was ready and sure to forgive him. The other camp asserted that Nora went too far, or too harsh. “He was a man of his time,” most said. “Pushing him that far makes her a cruel, spiteful bitch.” Their comments made it seem as if her unwillingness to forgive as soon as he apologised was more unforgiving than his infidelity. Although this discussion happened roughly ten years ago, that camp still baffles me. To the point where I feel truly stupid.

    All that said, you are right – some women can be tough on other women. I’d love to say I know why, but I don’t. To be honest, I think no amount of explanations can ever make me understand.

  4. Sandy James
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 08:25:00

    I see this every day at my high school. I will never understand why women can be so forgiving to men yet so snarky with each other.

    You raise some good points, Jane. I agree especially with the notion that women know other women–or at least think they do. Perhaps the harshness comes from us being so judgmental of ourselves and assuming other women are motivated by the same things? Aren’t we always our own worst critics?

  5. Cleo
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 08:29:52

    This came up during Heroine Week – I think in the post about unlikeable heroines. There’s something about that ‘how dare she’ response. How dare that female character do something that I was socialized not to do (even if I may secretly envy her for doing it). I don’t know – it’s complex. I don’t always get other women judging women harshly but I do it myself.

    One example is the heroine in Darlene Marshall’s Bride and Buccaneer. She’s unapologetically out for herself and I really had a problem with her, more than with heroes of that ilk. I think it’s because I was brought up to put others first (even though I resist that now, it’s still a powerful force in me). How dare she put herself first?

  6. Emma
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 08:35:18

    For me, the genesis of this phenomenon is that I am harder on myself than I would ever be on anyone else who had the audacity to have the same failing. I scold myself endlessly for not getting as much done as I should, for not eating what I know I should, for not running enough, etc. For a friend, I would contextualize and rationalize and forgive. But for a stranger who may be similar to me, well…. That’s not quite true. I hope I’m not judging women that I identify with but don’t know, but I can see how it’s a natural extension of the discipline and punishment that we mete out to ourselves. We’re judging those women — if we judge those women — because we judge ourselves. We have located the patriarchy and it is us.

  7. hapax
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 08:40:10

    I think that you’re spot on with your reasoning about “why women are harder on women” in Real Life (e.g., criminal cases).

    In fiction, though, it’s a bit different — at least for me, at least in the case of romance) fiction (I react a bit differently to characters in other genres).

    In romance, I approach the hero subconsciously as “is this somebody I would want to have a fling with?” (for the space of the time it takes me to read this book). Therefore, I want him to be hot, I want him to be charming, I want him to be clever and witty and above all entertaining. That leaves a lot of room for (indeed, may require!) certain character flaws.

    But a romance, I approach the heroine as “is this somebody I would want to be friends with?” The personality profile here is therefore a bit different, less about the surface, and certainly stricter: kind is more important than charming, intelligent more important than clever, a sense of the absurd more important than witty, and interesting far more important than entertaining.

    tl; dr: my relationship with heros is frankly superficial and objectifying: amuse me! But I want my heroines to be people I’m happy to have in my head long after the book is closed.

  8. LeeF
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 08:52:52

    What a good discussion- and one close to my heart. I have worked in hospital/clinical laboratories all of my adult life (30+ years)- it is still a very female dominated field. I consider myself a bit of a student of our interactions with each other- I have changed jobs 10 times over the years so have had a chance to see a variety of people at all levels of responsibility and education.

    The one great truth that I can distill from all of this is most women still treat each other as if we were in high school. Despite years of schooling and work experience, the fall back position tends to be “popular girls” vs. Nerds/brains. Of course there are exceptions but most of the time, in my work environments, women eat their young!There is little support or encouragement, especially for women deemed “too smart” or “not like us”- I really can’t encourage young people, female or male, to spend their lives in this area of health care. When my DH went back to school in his 30’s to be a nurse, I warned him that many would see him as a threat in their female dominated structure. He has faced a few dragons but, for the most part, his being a man has really worked to his advantage. So much more flexibility in nursing (not mention money!).

    How does this enter into my world of romance reading? I think I find myself giving heroines of all types the benefit of the doubt. Even those who would make me crazy in the real world. Why? Because this is my escape, my “no worries, mate” place to forget reality. I think I am even forgiving of many a-hole heroes for the same reason- it’s the journey, not the destination. Not to say I read and enjoy everything mindlessly- I just don’t want to over analyze and nit-pick every interaction and misstep. I agree with Maili about the TSTL designation- I tend to think of it as an equal opportunity flaw!

    Thanks for writing such interesting and challenging letters of opinion. Some of them get a little in-depth for my morning brain but I always find something to think about and ponder.

  9. LeeF
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 08:57:00

    @Emma:

    “We have located the patriarchy and it is us.”
    Love that line- think I will steal it and try to use it in a conversation soon. :-)

  10. CD
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 09:03:55

    Wow – you’re grabbing the bull by the horns, Jane!

    I’m not sure how far in reality women are harsher than men when judging other women – or whether it’s just the influence of general societal attitudes. When talking about date rape for example, I’ve heard just as many terrible arguments put forward by men as by women about the culpability of the woman involved. However, if it is the case, your two reasons make a great deal of sense. I think a large part of it is the familiarity issue, with the need for control/agency probably unconsciously shading a lot of judgement. But thinking about the ubiquitous TSTL heroines in romance, if I judge her more harshly than the hero (which could indeed be the case), I also identify a lot more with her and want her to be better. Part of that is because so many romance heroes are unfortunately fantasy creations rather than real human beings, and heroines tend to be written a lot better/more relatable. But part of it is simply because I identify more with women in general.

    With every double standard, I think there’s the other side. As a woman, I may well unconsciously judge a woman or female character more harshly than I would a man. But on the other hand, it’s still true that I would find it easier to relate with, for example, a woman who had been raped than a man. And if there is a battle of the sexes type scenario, I would instinctively side with the woman even before hearing what the scenario was about. I may well change my mind once I know the details, but the initial instinct would still be there.

    I may well be abnormal here, but I don’t think so. It would be interesting to hear others’ thoughts.

  11. Rei
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 09:11:50

    Excellent post on a topic that’s been on my mind for some time. I do agree with some of the other commenters, though, that it isn’t just women judging other women, especially in the context of fiction – women are just generally judged more harshly. Take TV shows like House and The Mentalist – the protagonists of those shows are awful, awful people, but they are nevertheless much beloved of their audiences. I’ve often thought that a Jane Patrick wouldn’t get away with half the crap that Patrick Jane does. (Yes, we have Bones, but as far as I know the latest series tried to “humanize” her a little. And anyway, that is one series. *One*.)

    In romance, I approach the hero subconsciously as “is this somebody I would want to have a fling with?” (for the space of the time it takes me to read this book).

    As Romancelandia’s resident lesbian this approach doesn’t really work for me, but it’s interesting that you bring it up, because I almost never actually see myself…flinging…with the protagonists in romance novels – male or female. I want a hero I can relate to and be entertained by. I want a heroine I can relate to and be entertained by. That doesn’t mean they have to be the same as me or even make the decisions that I would make in their place, but if I can’t see *why* they are the way they are, I’m unlikely to feel much of a connection to however they’re acting. And the things that make me feel cut off from or bored by a character tend to not be gender-specific.

    That said, though, there are certain traits that bug me more in characters of a specific gender – for example, alpha assholery in a hero is a complete turnoff for me, but I’d find alpha assholery in a heroine intriguing, because you never ever see it and it subverts some of the gender expectations common to romance characterisation. Virgin heroines make me roll my eyes, but virgin heroes immediately make me perk up my ears – and so on.

    …this is less of a comment and more a poorly-arranged collection of thoughts. It’s too hot for cohesiveness. Sorry.

  12. CD
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 09:17:12

    @LeeF:

    “The one great truth that I can distill from all of this is most women still treat each other as if we were in high school. Despite years of schooling and work experience, the fall back position tends to be “popular girls” vs. Nerds/brains. Of course there are exceptions but most of the time, in my work environments, women eat their young!There is little support or encouragement, especially for women deemed “too smart” or “not like us”- ”

    Ouch! That sounds like a horrible environment to work in…

    Everything is personal but I haven’t seen this in my sector. I’ve generally changed job every couple of years (normal for my sector) and have consequently worked in extremely “macho” as well as rather more “touchy feely” type environments. I’ve generally had a more positive experience with female supervisors than male ones – actually most of my nightmare experiences at work have revolved around male supervisors or line reports.

    However, I do completely agree that TSTL is an equal opportunity flaw in romance ;-). Goodness sake, some of the stuff heroes get up really make you wonder…

  13. CD
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 09:23:16

    @Rei:

    PRIME SUSPECT? Jane Tennison (played by Helen Mirren) is both pretty unlikeable and self-destructive, and one of the best fictional characters in TV. It was popular enough in the UK to go on for 7 series…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prime_Suspect

    However, I do get your point. We need more characters like her. I’m not entirely sure they can be called role models, but she certainly showed that complex female characters could have mainstream appeal.

  14. Rei
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 09:41:52

    @CD:

    I haven’t watched any Prime Suspect. I’m a terrible British person! I’ll check it out.

    I’m not entirely sure they can be called role models

    I agree, but then I don’t really think you want your kid to grow up into Gregory House either. ;)

  15. Maili
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 09:50:05

    @CD:

    I’ve generally had a more positive experience with female supervisors than male ones – actually most of my nightmare experiences at work have revolved around male supervisors or line reports.

    I don’t know if it’s down to the nature of my former profession or a simple case of maths, e.g. not many women, but that’s my experience as well. Lucky or what?

    I also come from a family (which consists more women than men) that taught me to judge by one’s actions or words, not by one’s gender, appearance or such. So it’s been a constant struggle for me, since teens, to understand why some – including those I respect – would criticise women in a way I don’t expect them to. Mother & Toddler group, anyone? I don’t want to understand why they do this because I worry that if I do, I’ll accept it as it is, which is the very last thing I want. Not sure if this makes sense.

  16. Christine
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 10:15:23

    Just a couple of comments.
    First as to why women are so competitive with other women regarding men? Despite all the talk and all the progress made, a man is still the “ultimate status symbol” for a woman. No matter how, rich, successful, beautiful etc. the biggest achievement lauded on women in society is having an “appropriate” partner. I can name a hundred examples in my personal life but I think I need only one name for everyone here to see what I am saying- Jennifer Aniston.

    Second- I do agree a bit with the familiarity breeds contempt argument and I have seen it with both sexes. An ex-boyfriend of mine would always assume a guy was no good but give a woman the benefit of the doubt. I remember arguing over the movie “Hitch” that it was ridiculous for the main character and her friend to want to ruin Hitch’s life because he was supposedly “the date doctor” and could teach men how to get women to fall in love with them. The friend (despite the main female protagonist’s warning) slept with a creepy guy on the first date after a number of warning signs the guy was a player and got mad at Hitch because he had supposedly coached the creep (he hadn’t). My argument was that it was ridiculous to say a grown, professional 30 something woman who knew the guy had bad tendencies and slept with him anyway on the first date should say some other guy needed to be punished for teaching these magical charm “tricks.” It was insulting to women (I thought). His argument was that not all women “are as strong minded as you” and “there are a lot of guys who are very manipulative with women.” Basically we were arguing on behalf of the other person’s sex and I think it was because we both felt our respective genders should be held to a higher standard. I guess that’s not a bad thing.

  17. Rosario
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 10:18:55

    Rebecca Rogers Maher wrote a post for Brie’s Heroine Week that I think hits the nail on the head, especially this bit (which I also referenced in my comment there):

    I was busy selling a version of myself that took a lot of effort—like a ballerina with broken toes smiling prettily—and meanwhile, this lady was getting away with showing her messy inside on the outside. How dare she??

    I think that “How dare she!” might be where a lot of this is coming from, especially with heroines who refuse to behaving according to society’s rules for ‘proper’ female behaviour. It can be a lot of effort to conform, so if you see someone who’s refusing to do it, and she’s getting away with it, it somehow devalues the effort you’ve put in.

    The post is here: http://romance-around-the-corner.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/heroine-week-day-2-flawed-heroines-and.html

  18. Inez Kelley
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 10:21:47

    Back in college, a friend wrote a sociology paper she asked me to edit on this. Her theory was that ages ago, when women were considered property of their fathers and then their husbands, and extending on to being recognized in later years only as the mother of sons, this was how women FOUND power. They judged each other and held other women to standards in a way to combat the powerlessness of their lives.

    They couldn’t say a man was wrong to do something or to act a certain way so they turned their vitriol on other women. If a man was beating his wife, then it must be her fault since the man could do no wrong. If a woman was raped, she must have done something to provoke the man since no man could be criticized for such an action.

    Her idea was this learned behavior became almost ingrained in our female psyche and was perpetuated through social norms throughout time. Women inadvertently teach this behavior to their children through words and actions that they themselves don’t realize are damaging.

    I can’t remember specifics but I do recall one example she used was study citing kindergarten-aged aged girls being shown images of various children from impoverish countries. The girls often made comments placing blame on the impoverished girls- Expressions like “she needs to wash her face”, “I’d find some shoes somewhere”, “Why is her dress torn? She should have been more careful”. There were few comments like that directed at the boys’ pictures. Those comments were more along the line of “He looks hungry”, “That makes me sad”, and “I’d give him my shoes”.

    I wish I could remember more, but I do remember that the paper made me think.

  19. Lori
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 10:38:51

    Women find it hard to like/accept other women because it’s so hard to like/accept ourselves. Society is telling us we’re not pretty enough, skinny enough, successful enough. We need to have a clean house, a smoking bod, a sexually satisfied partner, well achieving kids and still be smiling as we’re treated like second class citizens.

    We make less money than our male counterparts and we’re told to work harder instead of bitch and whine. This is while we’re raising kids by ourselves and are being told by politicians that we’re the reason America is in decline and by the way, we’re complete moochers if we seek help and ball busters if we expect men to give as much as we do.

    (You bet I’m bitter. Totally unashamed of it too.)

    So when I read a romance novel, well any novel, I have little truck with women putting up with crap. TSTL and I can’t finish the book. I need female characters who have brains. I need women I can enjoy.

    I know this is probably all ranty and I apologize but this subject just matters a lot to me. As the mother of an androgynous preteen, I’m watching how society keeps trying to pigeonhole my kid and how much self assurance she has in not caring. And I realize one of the best things I can do is to challenge my own preconceptions and stop judging women so harshly and with so much of my own insecurities tied into it.

  20. Emma
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 10:45:50

    @LeeF: I wish I could claim credit for it. It’s a riff on a line from an old comic; Pogo I think.

  21. cleo
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 11:01:38

    @Emma: It is Pogo. I recognized the reference immediately – “We have met the enemy and he is us.” It was about environmental problems, but it’s a quote that is endlessly adaptable to different situations.

    http://www2.macleans.ca/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/pogo-enemy-21.jpg

  22. cleo
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 11:02:37

    Blast – I broke the one link rule – can someone fish my comment out of moderation? Sorry about that.

  23. Christine
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 11:02:59

    @Rosario:

    That was a really interesting article Rosario, thanks for posting it. I think there is a lot of truth in what she said. I think it’s probably the same reason that unfair systems can take so long to be changed as the people who make it through can say “I went through X, Y and Z to get to this point, why should the people coming through after me have it easier?”

    I think men can be guilty of it as well in certain instances (though not as much as women). Not to stir up a hornet’s nest with a controversial subject, but with the George Zimmerman case it seems more men felt he should have been able to defend himself better and should have taken what he was getting in the fight and more women (who know how it feels to be vulnerable) were more sympathetic to the idea he was in fear of his life. I think that probably had some effect on the all female jury as well.

  24. Amber Belldene
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 11:13:41

    Jane–this is a really great lens with which to look at this question. I find myself reading it as a priest and not an author, because so much of what you’ve said relates to how I think about that role. Your example about cancer lawsuits make sense to me because of what I’ve observed in myself and others about how we react to people when they are suffering. An automatic human reaction (for very good evolutionary reasons) is to figure out why he or she somehow deserves it and how we can spare ourselves the suffering. Folks in caring professions have to learn their way around this lizard brain stuff.

    And yes, yes to the close identification and jealousy thing! One of my favorite sociologist-types is Rene Girard for his insight that this human dynamic is so basic that nearly ALL social violence can be traced to it. His work on rivalry is fascinating, and it has surely made me a better colleague, friend, mother, and hopefully writer.

    Then it’s very interesting as an author to think about how to deal with this dynamic for our heroines. For the most part, I think the practical trick is to make them just different and unrealistic enough that readers can relate but not identify. But perhaps the best authors find ways to subvert their readers’ all too human tendencies.

    As a feminist, a review that says “I didn’t like this heroine” actually entices me to read the book. And when the reasons the reviewer gives are arbitrary or seem unexamined, I tend not to pay attention to that reviewer anymore because they are reading for something different than I am.

  25. cleo
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 11:40:27

    This is such a good post and conversation. As I think about it, I think a lot of it, for me, comes down to how we respond to different, mostly internalized “rules.”

    I agree that victim blaming comes out of a fear of losing control – if there are rules that I follow to be safe and someone else gets hurt, well then, it must be that they weren’t following the rules right (because otherwise, rule following me might be at risk too and that’s too scary to contemplate).

    And this How Dare She thing is also rule based – as Rosario says so well, “It can be a lot of effort to conform, so if you see someone who’s refusing to do it, and she’s getting away with it, it somehow devalues the effort you’ve put in.”

  26. LeeF
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 12:04:49

    @Emma:
    Definitely Pogo but I like your riff- so appropos!

  27. SusieK
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 12:17:03

    @hapax:

    I so agree! I have often thought of certain heroines – “boy, I would NOT want to be stuck with this chick on a desert island.” Or even a really long bus journey! And then no matter how much I like the hero, I just can’t really get into the romance. I guess that is being judg-y, but I do that for the male characters too so at least its equal opportunity judg-iness!

    I guess I am also extra harsh about “pathetic” characters. Unfortunately, romances more often show the female lead as weak or pathetic, overwhelmed by life circumstances – and I just don’t find those kinds of characters attractive. Of course, when the female (or male) characters figure their lives out and manage to overcome their circumstances – that is pretty awesome, but I find I end up cheering for the female more than I do the male character.

    But I like this point about ultimately needing to imagine being friends with the heroine!

    SusieK @ theromanticalskeptic.blogspot.com

  28. Moriah Jovan
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 12:28:23

    I read for the heroine. Always have. I don’t have to like her or identify with her or want to be friends with her, but she better be interesting, and her actions need to be consistent with her motives and characterization.

  29. Riley murphy
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 12:30:20

    I knew this was going to be interesting. I love this topic and totally agree with both your points.

    For me, I actually think we learn this “throw the same sex to the wolves” right from childhood. I noticed years ago, while raising our two children that there was a funny phenomenon that occurred between my honey and I and our respective parenting skills. It was so obviously gender driven that it has stuck with me and one day, I swear I’m going to write it in one of my stories.

    Anyway, we had a boy first and then a girl two and half years later. I really became conscious of this difference when the kids entered school. When my son was having difficulty with a class or another child, teacher or whatever, I was ready to take on the world to protect him. Seriously, my honey had to hold me back and tell me to chill. Then when our daughter got into school and encountered these similar issues I was the one who had to hold Honey back and tell him to chill. And it was at this point, when he was growling and I was rolling my eyes at him that I realized it was the fear of the unknown that prompted our protective tendencies to kick in. Mine with my son and vice versa with Honey and my daughter. The way I figured it, I’d survived what my daughter had to go through (kind of like rite of passage) so I knew she’d survive it too. When I spoke to Honey about this he agreed. He felt that every time I wanted to jump and protect our boy I was babying him and shielding him from the necessary evils guys face on a daily basis, and I felt every time he wanted to do the same with our daughter he was standing in way of her learning to be independent and strong.

    So, yeah, this dynamic fascinates me. I mean, think of all the variables that play a role in this gender based, yet, well-intended bias. A male or female child raised by two parents, a single parent male, a single parent female or any of those combinations where the parents involved didn’t recognize the bias and you get a Smorgasbord of unique. *sigh* But to get back to being hard on the heroine in a romance novel? Heck, if we can throw our own daughters to the wolves it’s no wonder we can push our heroines under the bus…unless, the author engages the reader on an emotional level. Not an easy thing to do as the reader usually comes to the first page ready to protect and defend the hero. (Like me with my son) Now, the heroine, she’s pretty much on her own as we expect her to weather the storms in life as we have (like me with my daughter). It’s a fine line to walk in life, and an even finer line to write about. So, you know, that’s why I do. :)

    Great topic! I enjoyed reading. Thanks!

  30. CD
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 13:03:05

    @Christine:

    “First as to why women are so competitive with other women regarding men? Despite all the talk and all the progress made, a man is still the “ultimate status symbol” for a woman. No matter how, rich, successful, beautiful etc. the biggest achievement lauded on women in society is having an “appropriate” partner. I can name a hundred examples in my personal life but I think I need only one name for everyone here to see what I am saying- Jennifer Aniston.”

    I think I’m a lot more optimistic about the progress women have made nowadays – both for women I know personally as well as those who are well known. Take Angela Merkel – currently the most powerful person (of either gender) in Europe. I have absolutely no idea who her husband is or even if she has a husband for that matter; and I’m fairly certain that catching a husband would not be described as her crowning achievement in her future biography. Or the many many other women who are leading in their fields.

    It applies to Jennifer Aniston because her job is basically her love life and celebrity status. People know about her love life even if they’ve never seen FRIENDS or watched any of her films so of course she’s defined by what guy she manages to hook.

    Yes, there is a lot more pressure for women in public life to be seen to be not only successful but beautiful etc etc, and there’s a whole issue about how much more difficult it is still for a woman to become successful than it is for a man, especially if the woman has a family. But those are whole other issues and nothing to do with society requiring competition with other women or needing a man as a status symbol.

  31. CD
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 13:19:51

    @Riley murphy:

    ” Heck, if we can throw our own daughters to the wolves it’s no wonder we can push our heroines under the bus…unless, the author engages the reader on an emotional level. Not an easy thing to do as the reader usually comes to the first page ready to protect and defend the hero.”

    I just picked your comment because yours was the latest. I had to laugh reading through this and other comments because I think it just shows how different our approaches are to reading!! I’m completely the opposite – I generally find in romance that heroines tend to be better written than heroes (who tend to be fantasy figures/caricatures) so I tend to be more emotionally involved with the heroine.

    There have been a few times where I’ve finished a romance thinking “what the hell does he see in that twit?!” but if a romance doesn’t work for me, it’s generally the other way round ie the heroine could do/deserves much better. Particularly when the hero is a sleazy alphahole who treats her like dirt, which unfortunately seems to be fairly common in the genre…

  32. Christine
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 13:37:59

    @CD:
    CD said “Take Angela Merkel – currently the most powerful person (of either gender) in Europe. I have absolutely no idea who her husband is or even if she has a husband for that matter; and I’m fairly certain that catching a husband would not be described as her crowning achievement in her future biography. Or the many many other women who are leading in their fields. ”

    I’m 100% sure it won’t be her crowning achievement or mentioned as such in her biography but I am 100% sure if she wasn’t married or with a significant other within a certain amount of time it was mentioned repeatedly to her and asked of her. It’s always brought up about Condoleeza Rice.

    While I agree women have definitely made steps forward, no matter what I achieve professionally it’s always the first question asked of me “Are you married? Do you have a boyfriend?” It comes before “What are you doing now?” at reunions etc. even by former teachers/professors. At the last event I went to a former teacher addressed me using my first and last name then said “Oh but I’m sure that’s not your last name any more!” They totally expected that not only was I married, that I of course took my husband’s name to boot.
    I brought up Jennifer Aniston because despite being considered one the best looking, well paid actresses there is a huge air of pity that surrounds everything reported about her. (Poor Jennifer Aniston! Can’t she ever find someone to marry her!?) Compare that to George Clooney. Both have been divorced one time but George is “the catch” no woman can tie down! Poor Jenny just can’t hang onto a man!

  33. CD
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 13:41:26

    @Amber Belldene:

    “As a feminist, a review that says “I didn’t like this heroine” actually entices me to read the book.”

    Me too!! I’m easy that way…

    @Lori:

    “Women find it hard to like/accept other women because it’s so hard to like/accept ourselves. Society is telling us we’re not pretty enough, skinny enough, successful enough. We need to have a clean house, a smoking bod, a sexually satisfied partner, well achieving kids and still be smiling as we’re treated like second class citizens.”

    I completely agree. But maybe I’m more optimistic or I’ve had better experiences because I’ve felt that the women I’ve known both personally and professionally have been supportive and nurturing rather than competitive.

    @Inez Kelley:

    “I can’t remember specifics but I do recall one example she used was study citing kindergarten-aged aged girls being shown images of various children from impoverish countries. The girls often made comments placing blame on the impoverished girls- ”

    That’s really sad, actually.

    @Maili:

    “I don’t know if it’s down to the nature of my former profession or a simple case of maths, e.g. not many women, but that’s my experience as well. Lucky or what?”

    I think we must be from looking at other comments!! I do recognise that my sector is quite atypical – for one thing, most of us (both men and women) have to be aware of gender issues to do the work we do.

    Maybe a lot of it is personal – I mean, I grew up in a single parent household, and went to an all girls’ secondary (high) school. Both experiences really gave me confidence that I could do anything I wanted to as a woman – in fact, that we would do even better than men ;-). Part of the last was that we always beat the boys’ school at basically everything, and, yes, we made them very aware of it…

    @Rei:

    You really have to check it out. PRIME SUSPECT is a complete classic – the stories are a bit dated, but the characters are definitely not. Here’s an article about the gloriously flawed Jane Tennison – if that doesn’t convince you to watch, than nothing will:

    http://www.criticsatlarge.ca/2010/09/gloriously-flawed-jane-tennison-prime.html

  34. Unlikable heroines and women hating women. | LeahRaeder.com
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 14:20:42

    […] Author asks, “Why are we so hard on other women?” Jane Litte thinks two major factors are at play: over-identifying with a female character and […]

  35. library addict
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 14:25:34

    I agree with much of what Maili, Riley Murphy, and others have said. In my personal experience, I don’t think women are any harder to get along with at work than men. Either gender is capable of being supportive or obstructive. Both genders have people who would figuratively stab you in the back to get ahead themselves. Both genders have people who take shortcuts and blame others for their own shortcomings. Just as both genders have people who go out of their way to ensure others are given good opportunities and give credit where credit is due. And men gossip just as much as women, they just don’t call it gossip.

    I think I am harder on the heroines in romances because I do want to like them. I want them to be interesting and capable and a complete person irregardless of the romance. I think I am more willing to forgive the hero’s bad behavior if I believe he has truly learned from it and won’t repeat the behavior in the future. But there are plenty of times at the end of a book where I’ve thought the heroine deserved to end up with someone so much better than the hero.

    I can think of examples of books I enjoy despite not liking the heroine much more easily than I can think of examples where I didn’t like the hero, but liked the book. Not sure if this means I am harder on heroines than heroes or if I am more willing to overlook issues I have with heroines than I am with issues I have with heroes.

    I do tend to read a lot of romantic suspense and dislike when the heroines, who are presented as otherwise capable and smart, do stuff that puts them in danger. If the heroine is a police detective or has some sort of training, then it’s fine for her to be investigating the bad guy. When the heroine is a kindergarten teacher and decides to do so, I can’t help but take issue with the situation. I guess what I’m saying is that I think there is a tendency in romancelandia to complain that we don’t like the heroine of a book when really we like the character okay we just don’t like the way the author has the character doing TSTL stuff, especially when they do so just to advance the plot. I know I am guilty of this.

  36. Nancy B
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 14:45:05

    I notice this problem all the time in discussions about romance books (and real life as well). Someone else mentioned above that they are more likely to read a book if a review mentions the heroine is flawed and unlikable. I’m the same way. I look at unlikable heroines as I look at the flawed women in my life. They all have flaws that many readers would trash a heroine for and call her unlikable or stupid. For instance, I have family members who are irresponsible, who love to be the center of attention, who are people-pleasers; I have friends who are insecure about their body, who distrust men, who have a million ideas a minute but can’t ever finish a project, who are judgmental, who mismanage their money, etc. In romances, many of these would make a heroine unreadable, but in our lives, the people we love are incredibly flawed. I always wonder what flaws we are willing to read about in fictional women? The flaws we recognize in ourselves or in others in our lives? Or do people not want to read about any deep-seated imperfections because they are trying to escape from real life?

    I think I am forgiving of heroines in romance because I transitioned from young adult to romance as a teen. In young adult, the female protagonists are strong, but imperfect. They have flaws and, sometimes, they make stupid mistakes. I was trained from an early age to accept unlikable heroines and, when I transitioned to romance, I expected the same.

    I don’t know how to address this problem within romance. Should some authors just write “acceptable” flaws and others write unlikable heroines and readers can divide into their separate camps? It must be an interesting process for an author to try to write a palatable heroine who may not conform to society’s expectations.

  37. farmwifetwo
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 15:30:03

    I cheerfully swat both male and female character and after 8 weeks in a forest fire office and then 5 yrs getting a BSc in engineering I don’t cut men more slack.

    What I find frustrating is that authors dumb down female characters. Every one of my favourite books – that isn’t m-m – has a strong woman. One that thinks, demands respect, and doesn’t change herself for the male. We have seem to have gone from the domineering male to the whiney female in romances and I wish there were more authors that wrote them as equals and adults.

  38. Reese Ryan
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 16:13:45

    I’m puzzled by the fact that our tolerance for flawed heroines is so much lower than it is for flawed heroes. Earlier this month on the Contemporary Romance Cafe we had a discussion about why this is. One of the commenters brought up this very topic–women are much harder on each other than we are on men. So I’m thrilled to see a discussion about this.

  39. Sarah Mayberry
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 18:05:54

    I love this discussion, and it’s so great reading all the comments. It’s such a complex issue. I agree with the idea that we are so tough on ourselves that it’s no wonder that we transfer that high standard to other women – I think it particularly applies to fiction, as opposed to real life, though. In real life, I have a lot of compassion for my female friends. I feel for them when they are up against it, especially when I understand the crisis stems from something inside of them/their own behavior. Who hasn’t fucked up in life? With a heroine in a book, though, I’m not sitting on their couch seeing the pain in their eyes, hearing their upset and anguish pour out. In fact, in a book, a heroine who asks for sympathy or complains would be seen as whiny and not brave, etc, etc. My husband calls this “special pleading”, and claims that we always like characters more when we see them trying not to cry, for example, than when we see them cry. Even though in real life we’d all be bawling like babies. We forgive a lot of behaviours in our friends, I think, that maybe we wouldn’t forgive in a heroine because we simply aren’t that emotionally attached to her, we don’t have the history of understanding, etc, etc. We come to the relationship cold, and it’s a bit like speed dating, we’re trying to understand each other very quickly and get onto a level of intimacy so we can go on a journey with each other, and I think it takes a very talented writer to navigate this ground well and help us engage and sympathise with the humanity of both the heroine and hero quickly so that we are on board for their journey toward happiness.
    Also, I have long thought that the typical power dynamic in traditional romances – and this has changed a lot in more recent times but it is still very present in Presents-y type romances – is that while the man has the financial/legal/physical strength power, the woman is the ruler of the emotional world. She brings him to his knees with love, which allows her to access his power. I think that rides nicely with Inez Kelly’s friend’s theory about women finding power within the confines of the world they were restricted to – ie women’s business, and the power they find being emotional/judgmental. Can’t wait to read more thoughts on this post.

  40. Jenny Schwartz
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 19:31:39

    Fantastic post and discussion. I’ve learned, nodded and gone googling as a result. And sometimes smiled wryly.

    Since I write as well as read romance, there’s one aspect of the discussion that stands out for me, some writing advice I came across years ago — write your characters larger than life. As a reader, I know that’s what I look for in novels. I want characters I can connect to, but who respond in bigger, stronger, more dramatic ways than I would in a crisis. My harsh judgement of TSTL heroines comes from wanting them to be more than I am, or rather, more than my harsh self-judgement thinks I am. Like a kid reading comic books, I want a hero/ine to be a hero/ine. I want them to cope, so that I can imagine coping.

    Emma and Inez, your comments both snagged my attention in the discussion of judging other women harshly in real life. And Jane, your experience of the breast cancer trials hurt to read because it was so true.

  41. Sirius
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 19:43:21

    Great article and comments. I honestly do not remember being harder on woman for something I would let the man a free pass in RL so I cannot comment on that. Not saying that I never did it, I am sure it happened, and maybe more than once – I just honestly cannot remember on the top of my head therefore cannot analyze the reasons. However I certainly remember being harder on fictional women characters than I had been on men in several beloved books of mine and I am perfectly aware of the reasons. I read for the heroes more often than not and when they suffer – I hate those who hurt them and the worse the perceived injustice was the more I hate them. Lets take the example which probably illustrates what I am trying to say the best. I recently mentioned the book in another discussion here, so I won’t name it because I want to talk about it in more details. Historical fantasy which is based on a lot of real medieval settings. Young girl’s parents give her in the arranged marriage to the noble who is more than a decade older than her. She wants to hear serenades and poetry and very soon cheats on him with another noble , who is young and beautiful and can write and sing songs very well. She gets pregnant, dies in child birth , the gossip says that her husband killed the bastard child. The twist – that older noble loved her with all his heart, he just was too tongue tied to sing her songs and tell her stories. Too bad she would not look closer and see the love in him. The guy is devastated and holds a grudge against the other guy for years . That all happens in the very beginning of the book and really not that much of a spoiler. Anyway, did I hate her? OMG yes – with all my heart, still do every time I reread the book. Do I care that she was probably just a scared young girl who was too naive and stupid to see the real thing? Hell no, not one bit. She hurt my favorite character and I wanted her to suffer forever even after death ;). But here I wonder whether I am really that much harder on the women, or does it all depend on what they did. I hated the younger noble just as much as I hated the woman, but see the older guy was hurt by her more – because he loved her and of course I am harder on her for that reason. But I was so annoyed at the guy as well – it is just the emotional intensity of my hatred was lower if that makes sense?

    So I really don’t know I guess – in this book I was certainly harder on a woman for cheating but only because she was who mattered to her husband. If it was m/m I would want to kill the guy dead too ;)

  42. Moriah Jovan
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 20:12:40

    @Sirius:

    The twist – that older noble loved her with all his heart, he just was too tongue tied to sing her songs and tell her stories. Too bad she would not look closer and see the love in him.

    Question: What if, in his frustration over his inability to woo her, he had turned to, oh, I don’t know, a former mistress? A woman his own age to whom he could talk, and cheated on the girl?

    Anyhoo, going ONLY from what you said, my take on that would be that he needed to man up, particularly since he was so much older. If he truly loved her, and she truly mattered to him, he would have found some way to let her know, even if he couldn’t sing songs and write poetry.

    Also, I want to know what book this is. Can you put it in spoiler tags?

  43. Sirius
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 20:29:10

    Moriah Jovan, I will ask how to do a spoiler tag and then will do it, but please note that this is basically a backstory, we catch a glimpse of it in the beginning of the book and then the action takes us a bit ahead in time ( fifteen or sixteen years, not sure ). I just do not want you to get the book expecting the love triangle to play out in a great detail. Eh he did not have a mistress. And he was shy – easier said than done and she did not give him a lot of time to woo her. She started the affair very soon.

    Wait, are you asking if I would react the same way if she not cheated and he did instead , I am pretty sure that if she was as awesome character as he was ( don,t forget we basically are not given much chance to know her -when main story starts she is long gone leaving my favorite character wrecked ) the answer would be yes, but of course I cannot be hundred percent sure till I read that story.

  44. Moriah Jovan
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 20:32:39

    I THINK it goes like this:

    [ spoiler ] Stuff you want to say. [ / spoiler ]

    But run the brackets and slash and “spoiler” all together. I think.

  45. Sirius
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 21:17:33

    @Moriah Jovan: Ok here goes nothing :-)

    [spoiler]A Song for Arbonne by Guy Gavriel Kay[/spoiler]

  46. MikiS
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 00:49:39

    Well…maybe this is going to come off weird, but I’ve always felt – as a moderate feminist – that I don’t care to read about “unlikeable” heroines because I’ve always felt that just because we as women wanted to be treated equally, it didn’t mean we had to sink to the level of the men! Why can feminism retain what’s good about women traditionally as well as demand we’re valued for who we are?

    When I read about an asshole alpha (and he better be redeemable, or I don’t even finish the book), I think, “he’s being a guy”. When I read about a cold and difficult woman, I think “DON’T BE a guy!” When I read about a spoiled brat of a woman, I think “don’t be a baby, be an adult!”

    I don’t know – I don’t think I’m saying what I want to say here. I want women to be strong and better people. That strength can be in the typical nurturing role or a leadership role or whatever – but strength doesn’t have to mean “cold” or cruel.

  47. SusieK
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 11:10:49

    @Sarah Mayberry:

    That’s a great point! In our real lives we seem to have boundless patience for others we love and that doesn’t quite translate into characters we read about. I guess it may be as simple as a question of “timeline” – we grow with our friends and have more than a dozen interactions with her. We have an actual back and forth discourse where in some cases may even have a hand in helping or holding someone in difficulty. In a book or a movie, we are on the outside of a glass cage. So we yell “Watch out!” or want to give someone a hug and no one responds (obviously)! So maybe that’s part of the “frustration”. That we can’t actually help and are just left watching our lovely lady be a bad decision MACHINE!

    SusieK

  48. hapax
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 12:59:10

    @SusieK:

    I guess it may be as simple as a question of “timeline” – we grow with our friends and have more than a dozen interactions with her.

    I think this is an excellent point, and may explain why I respond to character flaws in different genres differently.

    I don’t much care for romance series, but I read a LOT of mystery and sff series. Your post made me think of one in particular: the Miles Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold.

    In each of two later books in the series (MEMORY and A CIVIL CAMPAIGN) our hero Miles makes a *spectacularly* bad decision, one that seriously hurts himself and those he cares about — and characters the reader cares about, too! (Those of you who have read them know what they are; it doesn’t really matter to the point I’m trying to make, though). I’ve re-read those books I don’t know how many times, but I keep finding myself literally yelling at the book “NO NO DON’T DO IT, IT’S NOT TOO LATE TO STOP!” But because I have known and loved and grown with Miles for so many books, I almost feel like we have a history together; and though I want to whup him upside the head each time, I forgive him and still love him.

    But in an earlier book, another main character (Mark) makes an equally bad choice (series of choices, really). For the most part, he’s only hurting himself and strangers (to the reader). Yet because this is really the first book in which the reader gets to know Mark, I find myself much more unforgiving of his bad decisions; and, even though I understand and sympathize with his reasons, and he technically more than redeems himself later, I resent him anew each time he shows up later in the series.

  49. Moriah Jovan
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 13:05:06

    @Sirius: Thank you so much!!! Put it on my wishlist! And you did the spoiler thing perfectly!

  50. SusieK
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 13:50:28

    @hapax:

    ahhahaha you should take a video of yourself reading these books and post your reaction screaming NOOOOOOOOOO ;) I think it would be hilarious to see reader’s reactions to their favorite character’s getting into trouble.

    You know how they have a whole series of videos on people’s reactions to the Red Wedding scene in Game of Thrones? You can start a whole one for the Miles Vorkosigan series ;)

    SusieK

  51. Melissa Blue
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 14:23:14

    @CD:
    “It applies to Jennifer Aniston because her job is basically her love life and celebrity status. People know about her love life even if they’ve never seen FRIENDS or watched any of her films so of course she’s defined by what guy she manages to hook.”

    For about two years I kept up on celebrity gossip because for me it was my soap opera. There are secret babies, marriages, divorces, remarriages, etc. There are definitely some celebs who do these things for sport and pay. Yet a disturbing trend I witnessed turned me off. Woman reaches the height of fame. If she’s single she’s hounded by who is her current beau and when she’s likely to get married. Doesn’t matter if she’s won a crapton of awards, her accomplishments are a mile long and quite frankly she actually does some serious and sincere charity work. What’s most important is her martial status. Then the woman gets married. There’s a weekly watch for a baby bump. It happens! The media goes wild. She gives birth and then her time in the limelight dims considerably. Unless another baby bump happens and then it’s a media frenzy again. (Or she divorces and there’s another chance for this cycle to happen.) It’s almost if the media decides her role is complete and covering her life in the news isn’t NEWS anymore.

    So, for me, I think we’re harder on women because even though every fiber of our being says we don’t have to conform, there’s this part of us that believes she must conform. The heroine can be flawed but not too flawed. She can be pretty but not too pretty. She can have sex but not too much sex. Let’s just look at the words we use to describe the differences of life choices for men. If a man decides he doesn’t want to marry he’s a bachelor. Sounds mysterious and even slightly sex. What’s the word for a woman who doesn’t she doesn’t want to marry? Cat lady is the only one that comes to mind.

    Sidenote, but I think related to the discussion: I find it interesting that the Dustin Hoffman video went viral. I mean, don’t get me wrong it was a very touching interview. I shared it on Facebook myself. But I did have a thought that women have been saying this for ages, but when a man says it somehow it’s much more powerful. It resonates a whole lot more with a lot more people. It could just be that when someone can step into your shoes and understand what it’s like for you then it just hits home a lot harder. The cynical side of me whispers if a man says it then it must be true.

    All right. This comment is long enough as is. I’ll end it here. And on a bitter note. lol

  52. Sirius
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 20:16:27

    @hapax: You love Miles too :-). See though I think I warmed up to Mark even faster than I did to Miles, even though I had known Miles for a while at that time. I actually think that as much as I love Miles, I never was especially forgiving of him, maybe because he was part of the political system I did not care much for? I mean, I appreciated the way Bujold showed how slowly but surely some change was implemented, etc, etc, but I think I was pretty harsh on Miles and even harsher on his father. As much as Mark did some horrible things, I felt like he came from the position of less privilege than Miles and I was ready to forgive him fast. And every time I think of “A Civil Campaign”, I smile, because my first thought is about that dinner :-).

  53. Sirius
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 20:29:08

    @Moriah Jovan: Oh good! I am so worried when I try new computer related things :-). Anyway, I hope you like the book if you end up reading it.

  54. Friday Bookshelf: July 19, 2013 | Plot Driven
    Jul 19, 2013 @ 09:54:06

    […] week, Jane at Dear Author pondered why we, as readers, are so hard on other women.  Her post made me reconsider my reaction to this book, which I had just abandoned at the 50% mark […]

  55. I found these links in my pocket | Becky Black
    Aug 03, 2013 @ 00:34:41

    […] Why Are We So Hard on Other Women? Jane on Dear Author about why female readers can be so harsh on female characters. […]

  56. Jennifer
    Aug 16, 2013 @ 14:34:24

    I just get tired really quick being the one to have to always take the emotional grief. So, so , so sick of it. In younger years have been the free spirit, the counselor and listener just because you didn’t take my advice and like to take enjoyment about society DOES NOT give you the right to take control over my emotions, liveleehoods and any other luxury I have myself. AND QUIT CREATING HORRORS ABOUT ME ON FACEBOOK AND AT THE FREAKIN JOB! other than that friend or foe , family or not leave my worth alone!

    because i stay out of your business then stay out of my life and quit giving me ur strife! the end :)

  57. Good
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 16:46:25

    I have very little patience with other females because of the amount of drivel that comes out of their mouths, and used to enjoy beating up my peers at my single-sex school for that reason. Even men call me a “hard” woman, and one Christian man was convinced the love of a good man might get me baking cakes and turn me into a Stepford wife etc, etc, but he was afraid to get too close, and I wasn’t having any of it. You can read about women judging other women in my book “Juniper Green” , available on Kindle and authored by my “Good” self, I.e. Good Friday.

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