Another day, another man writing a crappy female character description. On Saturday, urban fantasy author Melissa F. Olson exposed (but did not identity) a male author who clearly doesn't understand how women's pockets work, after reading a passage from his book that described a woman sitting comfortably with a $500 bankroll in her front pocket. More disturbing, the unnamed author also describes the heroine, who is in her 40s, as "surprisingly hot," which Olson rightly criticizes as "careless and demeaning."
This isn't the first time that Books Twitter has dragged a male author for writing women poorly. Back in April, Among the Red Stars author Gwen C. Katz shared this gem of a line from another man who doesn't know how women's pockets work: "I'm hard to miss, I'd like to think — a little tall (but not too tall), a nice set of curves if I do say so myself, pants so impossibly tight that if I had had a credit card in my back pocket you could read the expiration date." Inspired by Katz's reveal, and spurred on by this suggestion from podcaster Whitney Reynolds, the women of Twitter got a kick out of describing themselves the way a male author would and the responses were truly hilarious and relatable. ("Her breasts entered the room before her far less interesting face, decidedly maternal hips and rounded thighs," Good in Bed author Jennifer Weiner wrote. "He found her voice unpleasantly audible. As his gaze dropped from her mouth (still talking!) to her cleavage, he wondered why feminists were so angry all the time."
Now, Melissa F. Olson's Twitter treatise on women's pockets is making us nod our heads in collective agreement. Here's what Olson had to say about #whenmenwritewomen:
Olson might not care about the jeans, but I do. She's right to call out the male author's description of a woman older than 40 as "surprisingly hot," because we're all conditioned to read women above a certain age as sexless shrews, and breaking that social conditioning is hella hard to do. But anyone can figure out how an article of clothing works by just asking a person who wears it. Practically every woman I know has told me they had to explain bras, thongs, or some other garment to a man, and I once had an ex-partner explain to me — at my request — how the little pocket on the front of a pair of briefs worked. It seems mundane, but it's the author's responsibility to understand how the world of their character works — and that includes the functionality of their clothing.
And, you know, I get it. Maybe you see all the "Thanks, it has pockets!" memes and think, Wow, women's pockets must be amazing. You'd be wrong, but I could understand it. But to just not understand that the thickness of denim would prevent you from reading a credit card number, when you presumably own a pair of jeans? Or to think that, yes, this $500 wad of cash will definitely fit comfortably in a pocket the size of a Splenda packet? That's simply unforgivable, my dude.