Melissa Hillman, a theatre company director, addresses a flaw she has noticed occurring frequently in the works of young female playwrights: that their female main characters are passive and reactive, not active, while female leads written by men are nearly always active. Her theory:
Some playwrights, particularly those who are new to it, are drawing heavily from their own lives and are writing central characters that are reflective of themselves. Sometimes they write plays that are about some perceived injustice they suffered (WHY WON’T HE LOVE ME? WHY WILL NO ONE PRODUCE MY PLAYS?) which can put their central character into a reactive position. But the gender difference, I think, can only be explained one way.
As women, we’re taught to be reactive—to pay careful attention to the needs and opinions of others and react immediately to them. Most women become masters of reading body language and gold medalists at empathy. Not all (of course) but most, because we’re taught that being any other way is unacceptable—at home, in the culture, in plays, films, books, TV shows. Men, however, are taught to be active, and are taught that men who aren’t—who are reactive—are not “real men.” We (unfortunately) re-inscribe this into the culture over and over and over.
I’ve discovered in my own work that it’s not too hard to correct a recurring flaw like this once someone has pointed out to me. Hopefully Hillman, and others, can guide young women into writing more plays with proactive, assertive female characters.
Via Women and Hollywood.