Male Writer Likes Women's "Soul And Strength, Toughness And Vulnerability"

Writer Richard Wadlow tells yesterday's Guardian what it's like to be the only man writing for Mistresses, a BBC series "about the tangled love lives of four modern women."

His piece starts out a little annoying: "Mistresses," he says, "is conceived, structured and run by women. I am a man who largely does as he's told (which not only reflects the reality of the rest of my life, but that of most men I know)." This women-really-run-the-world stuff is pretty tired, and it's also a way for men to curry favor with women without supporting any changes to the status quo.

Warlow goes on to say that in dramas centered around women, "there's a particular soul and strength, toughness and vulnerability that wouldn't be afforded by the presence of men." This is a little gender-essentialist, but it's true that a heroine offers the writer different opportunities than a hero, especially if that heroine is situated in a society like ours, where gender is still such a fraught issue and being a woman can be uniquely dangerous. Warlow cites The Silence of the Lambs, and it's easy to see how Clarice's isolation in a nearly all-male world of criminal investigation made that film all the more powerful and chilling.

Warlow writes,

Most men I know, even the gay ones, are obsessed with women. I think that gives us a compelling qualification to write about them. I'm sure we indulge our own fantasies, preconceptions and hang-ups. I know I do. But isn't that what writing is about? The fact that we're not women may be what gives male dramatists' writing curiosity and passion. Our perspective might not always be as insightful as that of a female writer, but it's just as valid - and hopefully just as entertaining.

Not all men I know, even the straight ones, are "obsessed with women." But it is interesting to see our gender portrayed from the outside. The compelling thing about Madame Bovary (another example Warlow cites), isn't the accuracy of Flaubert's portrayal of a dissatisfied, self-absorbed, status-obsessed woman. It's Emma Bovary as a fictional character, a fake woman written by a man and thus unlike any woman you'd ever actually meet. A fictional woman created by a man is always going to be different from one created by a woman — or from women in the flesh — just as men written by women will never match up with flesh-and-blood males. But the cool thing about fiction is that it's different from reality, and hopefully more entertaining. So stick with it, Warlow — and don't let us women tell you what to do.

When a man writes a woman [Guardian]