Eew, He's All Girly: Issues Surrounding Feminized Male Characters

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Title: Eew, He's All Girly: Issues Surrounding Feminized Male Characters
Creator: Janis C.
Date(s): February 3, 2004
Medium: online
Topic: Fanfiction
External Links: Eew, He's All Girly: Issues Surrounding Feminized Male Characters, Archived version
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Eew, He's All Girly: Issues Surrounding Feminized Male Characters is an essay by Janis C..

It is part of the Fanfic Symposium series.


When is feminization not the real problem?

First off, we need to answer a question of precisely what counts as feminization. If I were to postulate that Daniel Jackson was repeatedly abused and raped, had fits under stress, and tried to suicide while in prison and then subsequently panicked in the middle of a military operation, I'm sure that someone would accuse me of feminizing him.

But if I don't characterize Archie Kennedy that way, I'm getting it wrong. (The particular challenge presented by Archie is to incorporate these canon aspects of his character along with his bouncy-chatterbox tendencies and his equally canon taste for killing people, ogling R-rated goings-on, and blowing things up.)

So what's feminization, anyway? Is it when a male character acts like what John Gray and his "Mars/Venus" books tell us is what women act like - and which none of us act like anyhow? Is it when he acts more like this than he did in canon? When he uses scented shampoo? When he expresses verbal tenderness toward anyone at all? When he negotiates consent with his partner? Or simply when his mischaracterization by a neophyte writer evokes uncomfortable memories in us of just how histrionic most of us were at 15?

And why do we hate this so much more than any other form of mischaracterization? Let's face it, it's every bit as wrong to paint Jack O'Neill as an athletic klutz or a wife-abuser as it is to make Daniel Jackson cry at the drop of a hat and constantly need rescuing -- and yet why do we scream bloody murder over the latter much more loudly?

When is feminization a good thing?

That said, there are times when feminizing a male character isn't necessarily a bad thing, in my opinion. I consider it to be a positive feminization when male characters ...

1) ... pay attention to body parts other than the mouth, cock, and ass. Men, as Joanna Russ observed, are for the most part, anaesthetized between chin and crotch. One of the most exasperating things about them is that, while you are enjoying the curve of their calf or lower back, they are tapping their feet impatiently, annoyed and (makes little rabbit-ear quote marks in the air here) putting up with you, because they are standing/sitting/lying there thinking to themselves, "GET TO MY DICK ALREADY." ...


2) ... pay attention to facial expressions and correctly interpret them, or even try. When a man in a story sees his friend react a certain way and thinks to himself, "So-and-so just raised his eyebrow and turned aside slightly. That must mean that he dislikes the person standing next to him and may have a history with that person," that is, for the most part, a female thing. ...


3) ... recognize and admit when another person was right. One of the most beautiful slash stories I've ever read had a male character in a very bad situation, where he had to do very distasteful things to save his friends. He fully expected to be negatively evaluated for the things he'd been forced to do. His friend, one of the people for whom he'd done these things, dismissed his accurate conclusion that he would indeed be negatively evaluated by their superiors. ...


4) ... elaborately negotiate sexual consent. "Do you want me to fuck you?" "Do you want it, too?" "Only if you do." "Well ... okay, then. But I'm not just doing this because you want me to. I want it as well." "Okay, then. I want it because you want it." And they fall into one another's arms. ...