I’m going to add to Ana’s post from yesterday, but I’m going to take it in a slightly different direction. While she focused on paring down her use of gestures—and it’s definitely something writers should do as they’re editing—I’m going to focus on body language to represent (or misrepresent) gender.
First discussed in the 60s (by my great-uncle, by the way), body language is familiar to everyone. Turn on any police drama and you can usually hear some detective talking about body language, micro-facial expressions, or some non-verbal cue that gives away an emotion. As writers, those non-verbal cues are a great way for us to show our characters emotions. It’s much more powerful to see our heroine cry than to be told that she’s sad.
But what about using gestures to show the gender of the character? The gestures we, as writers, use for our characters can emphasize their masculinity or femininity. For example, the following gestures, are traditionally “masculine”:
· Tense jaw
· Clenched jaw
· Hitting something with one’s fists
· A bobbing Adam’s apple
These gestures are traditionally “female”:
· Wrinkled nose
· Wide eyes
· A tongue pressed between one’s lips
But what if you want to make a point or emphasize a particular character trait that is outside of the traditional gender role? Can a female character make a “masculine” gesture and still remain true to her character? For example, maybe you have a female character with a very physical job, such as working on a farm, or a soldier. In that case, I could easily see her hitting something with her fists. For a female character that is extremely feminine, there might be a psychological reason for her to react in a “masculine” way. The same goes for male characters. You might want to emphasize their vulnerability or their “beta” status by giving them a typically “female” gesture.
What do you think?