Mrs. More expresses an anxious hope, that in a country where her sex enjoys the advantage of a liberal education, reasonable legislation, pure religion, and all the endearing satisfactions of equal, virtuous, and social intercourse, women will not content themselves with polishing, when they are armed with the powers to reform man; with captivating for a day, when they may be successfully labouring for eternity. She has endeavoured to excite in them a spirit of generous enterprise for the correction of the public morals, and fanning the religious flame which has latterly become so languid. She forcibly dwells upon the important advantages resulting from the united exertion of beauty, virtue, rank, and talents, in the indulgence of a patriotism which is at once both firm, and perfectly consistent with all the natural delicacy of her sex.
In order to secure the success of such a noble undertaking, it is necessary that women should reflect upon their powers, and endeavour to extend them daily. They should chase from their society the professed duellist, seducer, drunkard, gambler and blasphemer; — they should promote the reformation of the stage, and the reclamation of their abused and fallen sisterhood.
Every lady who holds a respectable situation in society, may stretch out a saving hand to a fallen woman, without compromising her own dignity.
–Joseph Hamilton, The Dueling Handbook, 1829
Whether you are egalitarian or complimentarian in your regard for the roles of men and women, or any of a million other possible positions, you must admit: as adults, women often have an influence on men in our society and every society I can imagine. This influence is often of a different kind than the influence men exert on one another. For instance, if Brandon attempted to influence me in the same way my wife does, it would be… well, awkward. No offense intended, Brandon.
Do you recognize the differences of men and women in society? Even if you believe differences are taught and not by strictly natural, recognize that women and men act and speak differently. Women do have a massive amount of power to influence men. As Hamilton notes in the quote above, that influence can be put to work for the good of society. Rather than influencing a man for an hour to get the woman’s way for bit, she could influence him in ways that may effect eternity.
How do characters of different genders interact in your writing? Do you reflect differences? Especially if you believe, as I do, that certain differences are inherent between the genders, every society, even the most far-flung science fiction setting, will show evidence of these differences, though different cultures may manifest them in very different ways.
I have to admit, in general I’ve not done this well. I’m a guy, and I think I can write guys well, but writing a realistic woman can be very difficult for me. Some friends joke that I can act old women very well at role play sessions, but that’s simply putting on the affectations. It’s difficult for me to get into the head of my female characters. Do you have problems doing the same for the opposite gender in your writing?
At the very least… does your writing acknowledge the influence women can exert over men? Even in the book I finished and reviewed last week, A Princess of Mars, Dejah Thoris exerts rudimentary influence over John Carter by pulling him away from the Tharks. The mother in My Big Fat Greek Wedding stated that while the man of the house is the head, the woman is the neck. She can turn him any way she wants. Now, that is influence! Can you think of examples of this influence in your reading?
As a last note, if you’re a woman reading this, please understand that you do have an influence over the men in your life, whether you recognize that or not. Pursue goals that are not petty, but noble. There’s an old line, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Women, you got great power. For the sake of us men, please be responsible.