CAN MALE WRITERS CREATE AUTHENTIC FEMALE CHARACTERS IN FICTION ?
In all my previous blogs , I have tried to discuss the details of creative processes that are responsible for producing a work of fiction. I have tried to analyze subconscious compulsions that drive a novelist in chiselling out a final version of a novel. I have also discussed how these subconscious compulsions of a novelist are the products of the society that a novelist lives in. Thus , any novel provides a window to understand what is happening inside the mind of a novelist and therefore inside the collective psyche of the society to which that novelist belongs. However , in all these previous blogs there was an impersonal frame of reference. It is true that , in all these blogs , I did refer to my own creative compulsions and the ethos of the society that I am living in. However, in all these blogs , Vaachakmitra as a writer was being analysed. Today , I am going to discuss a topic wherein I would try to analyze Vaachakmitra as an individual. In that sense , this blog is more personal than all my previous blogs. However , I would like to keep the tone of the discussion at the academic level. Of course , I would discuss this aspect of my personal side in the context of my forthcoming novel.
Today , I would discuss a gender aspect of creative writing. Admittedly , the gender issue is a very sensitive issue. I would try to keep in mind the strong emotions that this issue normally evokes. Therefore , I would try to be transparent without being offensive. The topic of this blog is ‘ Can male novelists create authentic female characters ? ‘ Of course , it is possible to invert the framework and ask ‘ Can a female novelist create authentic male characters ? ‘ However , I doubt whether I am qualified to answer this inverse question. Therefore , I would restrict myself to the original question about men’s ability to understand and depict women in fiction.
I would begin by analyzing my own creative processes. When I wrote my first novel , I was not very self observant. I was more focused on articulating my innermost feelings. Therefore , I could not analyze myself while writing that novel. However , when I had to read that novel again while editing , I realized that the women in that novel were created to fulfill emotional requirements of the protagonist. Therefore , I started wondering whether this was necessary ? Of course , as I have discussed in some of my previous blogs , every character ( whether male or female ) can be understood as a personification of one or more emotions of novelist’s subconscious mind. However , the question is whether the gender of a novelist would obscure such a personification ? Admittedly , it is possible to argue that all such personifications are subject to personal bias of the novelist, so why single out female characters created by male novelists. However , I believe that this singling out is necessary because it reflects on far more fundamental aspect of psychology and therefore that of psychoanalytical fiction.
Before I express my views on that topic , I would like to discuss how writing of my second novel has helped me to arrive at my present view. As mentioned above , when I realised that I was not self observant enough during the writing of my first novel , I made a conscious choice of being self observant while writing my second novel. I realized , while writing my second novel , that it is not easy to think like a woman. For a man , it is far easier to create a fancy dressed as woman than create a real woman in his fancy. In the novel that I am writing , the central character is a woman. However, the protagonist of the novel is a man. Therefore , the novel is a narrative of reminiscences of the protagonist in which the central character of a woman predominates. Since the novel about the reminiscences of the protagonist , it was always tempting to describe that woman as part fantasy and part reality. However , I felt that that would be unfair to the central character of a woman. So , I have tried to create a literary device wherein she describes herself. This was the point of narration where I realized the importance of gender. Of course , the readers would have to decide whether I have been successful in depicting a female character without gender bias.
I will now answer the question I have posed in the title of this blog. I am going to answer this question from the scientific and literary perspectives because I happen to be both , a scientist and a novelist. Genetics tells us that men and women share the same genes except for those present on X and Y chromosomes. Since we do not exactly know how each chromosome contributes in creating our mind , it would be difficult decide whether men can think like women or women can think like men. However, it is most likely that our ability to think is decided by all our chromosomes. It is only to the extent where genes present on either X or Y chromosome influences creating our mind , that men and women would differ in their thinking. Therefore , to that extent , it would indeed be difficult for men to think like women and vice versa. However , as a novelist , I have a slightly different view. Men may not be able to think like women , but men can always understand the way women think and vice versa. This is because we understand things by not just by thinking but by empathising. Empathising is a process wherein we put ourselves in other person’s shoes and then try to perceive reality from that person’s perspective. This ability to empathise elevates us to our humanity. Therefore , to answer the question , I can say that no , male novelists can not think from women’s perspective but , yes, they can create a genuine female characters by empathy.
It must be kept in mind that , in a broader sense , every character , whether male or female , created by novelist , whether male or female , is created by similar processes of empathising and internalisation. Therefore , the conception of fictional character , irrespective of its gender , is always through internalisation which is subjective anyway. Therefore every fictional character is blend of the subjective sensibility of novelist and the objective reality of our society. The process of personification extracts parts of reality and blends them with the novelist’s sensibility. Therefore fiction has a luxury of being inventive which is not available to sociology.
In my next blog , I would discuss one more aspect of gender difference. I would discuss whether the kind of emotions that we experience are derived from our gender. In other words , do men and women have different types of emotions ?